A cut above the rest

New responsibilities

A cut above the rest

Few filmmakers have understood the medium so well, as Shyam Benegal. Treading his own path, his unique cinematic vision reflects in his repertoire. ‘Ankur’ in 1974 was just the beginning. Thereafter, he went on to open a window to the Indian society with all its realities, in all its rationality. Now, all of 81, Benegal’s works hold more promises.

    That apart, he has a new onus on his shoulders with the Information and Broadcasting Ministry constituting a panel under him to give recommendations for restructuring the censor board. No stranger to censorship himself, the director has always been vocal in saying creativity cannot be censored.

Shedding light on the issue of censorship and the path ahead, he says, “Every artiste should have the right to express themselves in their own way. The brief given to us is to look at the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC). The Censor Board isn’t called so, it is the Central Board of Film Certification. We need to look at films and its suitability to different kinds of audience.

You certify a film for a certain kind of audience, based on age and more,” he says,The director who believes in grading rather than censorship says, “Certain films are simple. For instance, we know those relating to violence and sex are not suitable for children below 12. When you talk about suitability, it relates to two things — sensibility and sensitivity. In a diverse country like India, there are prevailing social norms. There’s sensitivity in terms of social practices. We have to be able to apply those. We have to see that nothing is done to suggest that it is arbitrary. Also, it should not be applied in a mechanical way.”

The committee led by him has been asked to recommend a holistic framework for CBFC and suggest changes in the Cinematograph Act.

     The filmmaker, who has time and again, expressed his displeasure over arbitrary and meaningless censorship, elaborates, “What we are trying to do is to get the opinion of all stakeholders, all those who are involved with this, be it the creative or the commercial
aspect. Also, we will look at the earlier reports, some of them good ones, that were sent to the government as well. When Leela Samson was the chairperson, seminars were held on the censorship issue and a report was sent. At the moment, though, we have to gather as much material as we can and brief ourselves,”he says.

With a diverse audience and a multitude of sensibilities, the job is not easy.   “A film is made to entertain people, to inform and educate, All the three are important. In order to get an audience, you may make the film that play on the vulnerability of the audience. And all of us are vulnerable. A film should be seen in terms of that. For instance, if a film is inflaming the passion of the audience, quite arbitrarily, or maligning a particular community, should you be allowed to do that? Certainly not! You have to look at the complex social situation. If you are showing something that is going to create a situation which will lead to actual violence, there must be restraint,” he says.

While the opinions on censorship may be divided in a nation such as ours,by all counts, films may perhaps breathe a biteasy now.

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