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Looks Like Audience has Matured, CBFC has Not

Kissing was allowed

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Audience, Matured, CBFC
While the British Censor policy was mainly concerned with guarding its interests by suppressing any voice of dissent through films, it was not trying to be much. Pixabay

In a country where the censor board decides the duration of a kissing scene and where filmmakers had to resort to a pair of pigeons cooing and necking to denote a kiss, and milk was shown to spill for a sex scene in a film, it is strange that OTT platforms produce and stream some of the filthiest stuff. There is a great anomaly existing between various mediums carrying entertainment content. Audience.

Films meant for release in cinema halls have been facing various problems. Earlier, the British rulers called the shots. While the British Censor policy was mainly concerned with guarding its interests by suppressing any voice of dissent through films, it was not trying to be much of a moral guardian of the Indian populace, least of all the movie-loving folk. Kissing was allowed. In fact, even passionate kissing was allowed and nobody told you how long it should last.

Despite their efforts to curb anti-Raj content in films, filmmakers all over India managed to sneak in patriotism and the message of freedom.

When the Central Board of Film Censors was set up in 1951, the name itself made things clear. The intention was to sit as the Moral Guardian of the Indian public. This, despite the basic tenet, under which censorship was introduced, was never meant to guard people’s morals. The idea was to maintain communal harmony, safeguard national interest and make sure no indecent content was passed off as entertainment.

Audience, Matured, CBFC
Films meant for release in cinema halls have been facing various problems. Pixabay

Strangely, while the newly made-in-India Censor Board as good as adopted all the rules from the previous British controlled Censors, it found kissing on screen to be objectionable! That was only the beginning, later the censors went on to become the guardians of not only Indian morals, but also virtue. Every chairman and his/her committee set their own rules and interpretations!

The Chairman of the Board is appointed by the people in power and the person inevitably happens to be one of its Aye Sayers due to which, a blind eye is turned towards his shortcomings.

Over a period, since Independence, the Censor Board has only served as a villain. Only during one or two chairmanships, logic and common sense prevailed. Actually, a matter is never supposed to involve the Chairman, as appointing a committee to watch a certain film to fixing the venue and date is taken care of by the Regional Officer (RO). While the Chairman operates from Mumbai, the rest of the eight regional offices are handled solely by the ROs of that city.

Earlier, a bureaucrat was appointed as the Chairman. No qualification or connect with the film industry or making of films was required. But, post the Emergency, the Board was renamed Central Board of Film Certification from the earlier Central Board of Film Censors. And, to placate the film industry, people from the film industry were appointed. Since most of them failed to follow establishment dictates, they stepped down after spending some time there.

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The change of name did not change things in any way. May be it was the chair that made the Censor chiefs become megalomaniacs, even if the rulers from Delhi did not set terms. For example, in the recent past, Pahlaj Nihalani, tried to take film censorship back to the Emergency era! Nihalani himself was a producer, one who had no scruples adding double-meaning dialogue and songs in his films, but he decided a James Bond film should limit its kissing scenes to a limited number of seconds!

When enough was enough, the Government decided to replace him with an intellectual, for whatever that term means, in Prasoon Joshi. The authorities seemed to think that anybody who was on good books of the regime was good enough to decide on the moral values of films.

The man sang paeans to the regime and that seemed to be the criteria. His decisions and the working of the Censors has been under question for a long time now. (Again, I think it is about the Chair; it gives you a false sense of power). Under his tenure, big filmmakers get through on priority to meet their release dates while the small ones take months. And, it is no use having the Board office in Mumbai as there is a huge waiting list to examine a film, due to which a maker is often made to run to a regional office in another city to get his film cleared.

The Advisory Committee is usually formed by I & B Ministry but, then again, a game of favourites is played and a select few are assigned to watch most films. The film producers, who have crores involved, never take the Censors to the court of law. They have a deadlines to meet and a lot at stake.

Audience, Matured, CBFC
Earlier, the British rulers called the shots. Pixabay

But what can be termed as the lowest point in the history of the Censor Board was when, sometime back, another Government body took it to court. That was the Children’s Film Society of India (CFSI)! The Board granted a UA certificate to one of their films. UA to a children’s film? The film, titled “Chidiakhana”, was okayed for a UA certificate (mandates parental guidance for children below age 12) by CBFC.

The CFSI had to take the matter to court. The court took a dim view of the working of the CBFC calling it ostrich-like and saying that the Board should not take people to be infantile and imbecile, and consider itself to be the only one with intelligence to decide what people should see. There were more damning comments made by the Court and one wonders if this will be enough to change the attitude of the Board.

All this in an era when OTT platforms are mushrooming and the content is delivered right on smartphone screens and televisions in people’s homes. The content streaming on OTT platforms has been an issue since the onset of this platform. Most of it is morbid and vulgar, depicting graphic sex including the unnatural, with foul words galore.

Looks like the audience has matured, the CBFC has not. The very purpose of replacing the word Censor with Certification in the Copyright Act has not helped change the way the Board functions and assumes power it has not been granted.

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@The Box Office

* The screens starved of a big-banner, big-budget, big-bill film release, finally got “War”, a Yash Raj production. Its catchy title and the cast representing Hrithik Roshan and the young hulk, Tiger Shroff, was bound to draw crowds in hordes at the cinema halls. And, the film did just that with an added advantage of the Gandhi Jayanti National Holiday on Wednesday. The ticket rates at prime multiplex properties were jacked up sky high with minimum admission rate bordering around Rs 600 at many places.

The film went on to collect a record setting first-day figures of Rs 51.6 crore (Tamil and Telugu dubbed versions adding another Rs 1.75 crore) from 4,000 screens. However, the dull period and the plan for mid-week release always takes its toll as the collections came down by over 50% on Thursday to Rs 23 crore (plus 1.25). With this, the film has raked up a total of Rs 74.7 crore (plus Rs 3 crore from South) for first two days.

* “Dream Girl” has proved to be a big hit, sustaining well during its third week taking its three week tally to about Rs 129 crore.

* “Chhichhore” has collected about Rs 15 crore in its fourth week, taking its four week total to Rs 136 crore. (IANS)

Next Story

Know How The Content Providers Seem To Have Decided To Capture The Attention Of Masses

There are voices that the OTT content should come under CBFC certification. It is reported that at the CBFC, while the films from big makers are cleared out of turn so that they can meet their scheduled release dates, makers of smaller films have to wait a long time for that kind favour from the censors?

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Usually, the films with family entertainment, RomComs or mildly plausible action films work (Salman Khan types). The religious and saas bahu family themes have been hijacked by television channels. Pixabay

By Vinod Mirani

When a fad invades India, it does so in hordes. May it be mobile manufacturers, car makers, and so on and so forth. But, now, we have a line-up of streaming content providers. They enjoy an open, unhindered run on your small screens.

Usually, the films with family entertainment, RomComs or mildly plausible action films work (Salman Khan types). The religious and saas bahu family themes have been hijacked by television channels. Presently, though suddenly, we are now into this genre called nationalism/patriotism and biopics. But, that market is flooded and all future announcements for forthcoming films seem to be on patriotism and biopics! Not long before the law of diminishing returns takes over.

In fact, this week’s release, Romeo Akbar Walter, may prove to be an indicator to that considering the lukewarm reception the film has got. The thing is, those people who want to watch these films, they are mainly available in cinema halls. These films would not be as much fun on a small smartphone/tablet screen, also known as Over The Top (OTT).

The content providers seem to have decided to capture the attention as well as the initial eyeballs through a nonconventional way; providing content which is not available on cinema screens. That is to majorly deliver content that is morbid, gory, semi pornographic, drugs and all those things that are repulsive to a normal entertainment seeker and the family audience. Now this is the content designed for personal viewing with no one else watching over your shoulder!

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The CBFC does not work on precedents. Does not matter that a number of films, Hollywood as well as Indian with lengthier kissing scenes, have been passed with UA certificate! There is no consistency in policy. Pixabay

The target viewer is the youth and the purpose is to change their taste and preferences. Indian, Spanish, Mexican, all the content that I scanned through had gore, sex, and all that as common as well as the dominant factors. While providing such content, there are also some decent features but not enough yet.

But, how long can this trend last? There was an era when Malayalam films with a lot of titillation and suggestive sex were dubbed in Hindi language and, for the interior audience, interpolation was a regular practice as explicit sex scenes from porn films were added. They worked for a while but faded soon.

So, the issue is, while the Central Board Of Film Certification (CBFC) makes all kinds of demands from a feature film producer before his/her film is approved for public exhibition, this morbid mobile OTT streaming goes unchecked! The CBFC, in fact, has become the moral guardian of the Indian moviegoer; one to check on its ethics and morals!

Pahlaj Nihalani, the recent past Chairman of the CBFC, asked to delete a kissing scene from a Bond film from some 15 seconds to six seconds. Isn’t that ridiculous considering that Nihalani in real life can’t finish a sentence without adding a couple of BCs and MCs no matter if women or kids are around! Is it possible that a single panel member of the examining committee of CBFC, who watches films to rate them, has never watched an illicit porn film? And, to think that these people think a film is kosher only for six seconds, not 15! Do this politically connected panel members really qualify to sit in judgement over what the people should watch? That has been an eternal debate.

The CBFC does not work on precedents. Does not matter that a number of films, Hollywood as well as Indian with lengthier kissing scenes, have been passed with UA certificate! There is no consistency in policy. As is the wont of Indians, a seat of authority robs them of logic. It is a high to be able to judge others, especially when in an official position. As a rule, this lot found fault with every film presented for clearing. For example, the examining committee suggested 14 cuts to a children-oriented film, Mr India, in 1980. I can quote numerous such examples.

But, the issue is about parity. That is to say, while almost all other mediums are free of a watchdog, why are films censored? Why not OTT content? Come to think of it, what does the ‘power’ that the CBFC panel members and the Chairman
amount to when a motely mob negates their certification and blocks a film? Padmaavat, Manikarnika and so many other examples.

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Also, considering every other so-called group or organization or a community can ignore CBFC clearance and block a film’s release, the Board means nothing. And, this despite the highest court order ages back that the CBFC is the ultimate authority on cinema content! Pixabay

Coming back to streaming content and films, how come the film, PM Narendra Modi, is denied even the courtesy of a screening for the examining committee yet while the streaming episodes on the same subject, Modi, are already on people’s mobiles? So, how is the CBFC and Censor Certificate relevant anymore when a biopic on a person is blocked indefinitely while the same subject OTT platform, Modi: Journey Of A Common Man, produced by Eros Now, has already started streaming?

There are voices that the OTT content should come under CBFC certification. It is reported that at the CBFC, while the films from big makers are cleared out of turn so that they can meet their scheduled release dates, makers of smaller films have to wait a long time for that kind favour from the censors? In that case, suppose OTT content had to pass through censors, what would be the scene? Would it be the Amazon and Netflix that will get priority or a score of others who apply? After all, big shots get priority! Imagine the chaos that can follow. A 30-minute episode can end up
being chopped off to 15 minutes and the second episode of a series may appear weeks after the previous one!

Also, considering every other so-called group or organization or a community can ignore CBFC clearance and block a film’s release, the Board means nothing. And, this despite the highest court order ages back that the CBFC is the ultimate authority on cinema content! Something needs to be set right in the Cinematograph Act. To start with, the word Digital Content, should be made part of the Act.

@The Box Office
*The latest release, a highly promoted film, Junglee, just about manages to stay afloat. With a meagre opening day collections of three crore, it managed a face-saving weekend of around 13 crore. The film had a tapering effect at the box office with the start of the new week and closed its first week with a total of over 19 crore.

*The other release of the week, Salman Khan’s production, Notebook, failed to make its mark. With an opening weekend of Rs 2.3 crore, it had a low opening week figures of Rs four crore.

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*Akshay Kumar carries Kesari on his popularity though a regional subject with a limited appeal, it collects Rs 19 crore for its second weekend and Rs 30 crore for its second week taking its two week tally to Rs 135 crore.

*Badla has collected Rs 5.3 crore in its fourth week to take its four week total to Rs 79.3 crore. (IANS)