Why filmmakers are against Cinematograph Bill 2021

Why filmmakers are against Cinematograph Bill 2021

The draft bill proposes to give certificates to films for perpetuity, which is currently set for 10 years

Representative image. Credit: iStock

Soon after the Centre released the draft Cinematograph (Amendment) Bill 2021, which proposes to penalise film piracy and empower the central government to order recertification of an already certified film following receipt of complaints, it received a lot of criticism from many actors and filmmakers.

Let us understand why filmmakers are opposing the amendments included in Cinematograph (Amendment) Bill 2021:

What are the significant changes proposed?

> The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting wants to add a provision to the Act giving revisionary powers to the Centre. If Section 5B(1): principles for guidance in certifying films, is violated then the Centre can use its power to reverse the decision of the Central Board of Film Certification.

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> The draft comes shortly after the Film Certificate Appellate Tribunal was abolished. It was the last place for filmmakers to appeal if they were dissatisfied with the certificate granted to their film. "Since the provisions of Section 5B(1) are derived from Article 19(2) of the Constitution and are non-negotiable, it is also proposed in the Draft Bill to add a proviso to sub-section (1) of section 6 to the effect that on receipt of any references by the Central Government in respect of a film certified for public exhibition, on account of violation of Section 5B(1) of the Act, the Central Government may, if it considers it necessary so to do, direct the Chairman of the Board to re-examine the film,” it said.

> The draft also proposes to give certificates to films for perpetuity, which is currently set for 10 years.

> The ministry said the provisions relating to certification of films under 'unrestricted public exhibition' category are proposed to be amended so as to further sub-divide the existing UA category into age-based categories.

> The ministry also wants to add a provision to penalise film piracy. The draft bill proposes to insert section 6AA which prohibits unauthorised recording. According to Section 6AA, “Notwithstanding any law for the time being in force, no person shall, without the written authorisation of the author, be permitted to use any audiovisual recording device in a place to knowingly make or transmit or attempt to make or transmit or abet the making or transmission of a copy of a film or a part thereof."

How does it plan to categorise films?

As per the proposed law, the films will be categoried as follows:

> Category ‘U’: This is for unrestricted public exhibition.

> Category ‘U/A’: This requires parental guidance for children under 12. ‘U/A’ is further divided into three categories as per the age of children -- U/A 7+, U/A 13+ and U/A 16+.

> Category ‘A’: This is for adult films.

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What is the penalty proposed for film piracy?

While there are no piracy policies in the Cinematograph Act, 1952, in the amendments the government proposes to include Section 6AA to prohibit unauthorised recording.

If the law is violated, the punishment will be “imprisonment not be less than three months". This may be extended to three years and with a fine "which shall not be less than Rs 3 lakh but which may extend to 5 per cent of the audited gross production cost or with both”.

Why are filmmakers opposing the proposed amendments?

Filmmakers believe that the proposed amendments will make them powerless at the hands of the state and more vulnerable to threats, vandalism and intimidation of mob censors.

Actor-turned-politician Kamal Haasan took it to Twitter to criticise the Cinematograph (Amendment) Bill 2021 on Tuesday.

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In his tweet, he wrote, “Cinema, media and the literati cannot afford to be the three iconic monkeys of India. Seeing, hearing and speaking of impending evil is the only medication against attempts to injure and debilitate democracy.” He urged his fans to raise their voice against the amendments.

Calling it “another blow to film fraternity”, over 1,400 filmmakers have signed an open letter to the Information and Broadcast Ministry. Anurag Kashyap, Hansal Mehta, Vetri Maaran, Nandita Das, Shabana Azmi, Farhan Akhtar, Zoya Akhtar, and Dibakar Banerjee have also protested the proposed amendments. 

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