India’s Controversy-Ridden Censor Board Will Have Director Shyam Benegal Head Its Revamp

Posted on January 2, 2016 in Culture-Vulture, News

News By PTI:

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The controversy-ridden censor board appears headed for far-reaching changes with the government now constituting a panel, headed by noted filmmaker Shyam Benegal, to suggest a paradigm in which artistic freedom is not stifled.

Mandated to submit its report in two months, the panel includes filmmaker Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra, adman Piyush Pandey, film critic Bhawana Somaaya, National Film Development Council MD Nina Lath Gupta and Joint Secretary (Films) Sanjay Murthy.

An Information and Broadcasting Ministry statement said the panel has been formed ‘in sync with the vision’ of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

“During their deliberations, the Committee would be expected to take note of the best practices in various parts of the world, especially where the film industry is given sufficient and adequate space for creative and aesthetic expression,” it said.

Noting that in most countries there is a mechanism of certifying films and documentaries, the ministry said, “But it has to be ensured that in doing so, artistic creativity and freedom do not get stifled or curtailed and the people tasked with the work of certification understand these nuances.”

The panel would recommend broad guidelines, procedures under the provisions of the Cinematograph Act, rules for the benefit of the chairperson and other members.

The staffing pattern of CBFC would also be looked into in an effort to recommend a framework which would provide efficient, transparent user-friendly services, it added.

This announcement has come within days of I&B Minister Arun Jaitley telling PTI that the “time has come” to have a re-look at the functioning of censor board as he would like the certification board to be “controversy-free”.

Filmmakers have complained of arbitrary objections and cuts sought by the board in the recent past including the criticism for the cuts the latest James Bond movie ‘Spectre’ had to go through for its screening in India, apart from blurring of scenes in the film ‘Angry Indian Goddesses’ and many others.

A list of banned cuss words, circulated by CBFC chief Pahlaj Nihalani had also become a subject of controversy.

When contacted, Benegal told PTI that the I&B ministry “spoke to me a couple of days ago…I am yet to know exactly what the proposal is…This is a committee formed by the government to see how effective, transparent and satisfactory the system is.”

Welcoming government’s decision, Nihalani said, “There are good people in the committee and I am confident that they will bring new reforms.” Nihalani of course, has been the subject of many a controversies himself as the Board Chief.

Also read: ‘With A Right Wing Dominated Censor Board, It’s Free Speech Vs. The Thought Police‘ by Director Pankaj Butalia; and Watch Filmmaker Anand Patwardhan Talk About His 40-Year-Long Battle With Censorship.