The central government recently released a draft Cinematograph (Amendment) Bill, 2021, for suggestions and comments until 2nd July 2021. The proposes to amend the Cinematograph Act of 1952 with provisions that will give the Centre revisionary powers and enable it to re-examine films already cleared by the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC).
This comes 3 months after the Centre disbanded the Film Certification Appellate Tribunal which was created to resolve any issue arising between filmmakers and CBFC. Now filmmakers have to go directly to the High Court to resolve any issue between them and CBFC.
The bill new age-based and categorization of films instead of the older U, UA and A Categories.
Renowned film personalities have written to the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting against the government’s proposed amendments to the 1952 Cinematograph Act, the names include Anurag Kashyap, Hansal Mehta, Shabana Azmi, Farhan Akhtar, and Dibakar Banerjee.
They have stated that the move has the potential to “endanger freedom of expression and democratic dissent.”
Filmmaker Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra, who in 2016 was appointed as a member of the Shyam Benegal Committee to give recommendations to bring about reform in the CBFC, said, “In 2016 we took almost one year to re-assess the workings of the board, and we not only gave suggestions but also gave them a detailed report on the changes that can be made and the implementation of the changes. We all stressed upon the fact that the Board should certify films, and not censor them, and gave them categories for certification as well.”
Former CBFC chief Phlaj Nihlani also criticized the bill and said that I&B Ministry had not taken any suggestions from the Mudgal Committee in 2013, the 2016 Shyam Benegal Committee, nor the changes he proposed during his tenure, in the certification process.
Actor turned politician Kamal Hasan tweeted, “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.”
The Ministry has added provisions to check film piracy – that will prohibit unauthorised recording, making it a punishable offence.
And in conclusion, the draft proposes to certify films for the long haul. Currently, a certificate issued by the CBFC is said to be valid only for 10 years.