Stephen Neil Gershom
The Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) is in the news yet again, and while that is nothing new, the latest is for a rather strange reason.
An appeals board which is under the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting overturned an earlier decision taken by its sister organisation, the CBFC. Alankrita Srivastava’s ‘Lipstick under my burqa’ was denied the permission to be screened citing law and order problem and possible it hurt a particular section of society.
And now The Film Certification Appellate Tribunal (FCAT) said, “There cannot be any embargo on a film as it is women-oriented or contains sexual fantasies and expression of the inner desires of women.” Those in support of the movie are now rejoicing but had earlier criticised the CBFC for being too strict and the film’s director, Alankrita Srivastava had termed the decision to ban the movie as “an assault on women’s rights.”
Controversies surrounding censorship is not new to India. As we were always worried about Indian culture and hurting sentiments, filmmakers have found getting a film certified with an Adults only or a Universal certificate was like walking on eggshells.
But censorship in our country witnessed some silly controversies which were avoidable, to say the least. The CBFC has constantly been under criticism from movie buffs, and film reviewers alike, and the criticisms only increased after Pankaj Nihalani, the current chairperson of the CBFC was appointed in January 2015. Nihalani has been known to be very sanskaari, and while addressing the censor board’s decision to deny certificate to the film ‘Lipstick Under My Burkha’, he had even said, “CBFC is part of the government, the responsibility of which is not only limited to issuing certificates to the films but also to preserve the culture and tradition of the country.” His statement failed to convince the avid film lover and they openly criticised Pahlani for crossing his brief.
Now, with such a chairperson, bans and cuts are bound to happen, and the movie fraternity is rightly irked. However, it would only be right if we looked at from the other side too. Do we need censorship? India is a diverse country and this alone can give us enough reason to censor not just movies, but also books and even some art. Truth be told, we live in a country wherein a speech can bring earn you the tag of being an anti-national, and the next thing we know is that there could be a charge of sedition against you.
Satanic verses, a book written by Salman Rushdie was banned in India even before the book reached here and we were the first nation to ban the book. A movie named ‘Fire’ which had homosexual content was certified ‘A’ by the CBFC in 1998, made more than 200 Shiv Sainiks storm a theatre in Goregaon, Mumbai, and a similar incident happened in the national capital too. The film was then sent back to the CBFC for a re-examination. Now that the movie Lipstick under my burqa is to see the light at the end of the tunnel one can only hope for better times for music, films and performing arts. After all, they make a society richer and more enlightened.