By Gulraj Bedi:
I guess, all of us have seen the war of words that became the front-page headline of every National daily in India. It was about the rift between the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) and the producers of ‘Udta Punjab’, a film based on the rampant drug use and abuse in the state, slugging it out amidst mud-slinging, all of which is gleefully finding its way into the various forms of media. But, in all fairness, the issue/problem around which the debate was supposed to revolve was completely lost.
On a personal note, I have absolutely no hesitation in saying that I’m not a very big fan of censorship simply because 5-6 don’t have the right to decide what 1.25 billion people should watch. It’s quite possible that what I like, others might not like. We need to trust people. Banning something won’t help as everything is readily available over the internet. We need to remodel the entire idea of censorship.
At a time when the content that the general public is exposed to is undergoing significant change, it’s better to have a rating system for films. It’s a system followed in some foreign countries where the film, according to its content, is certified or rated as to which type of audience can watch it.
Bollywood films are often criticized for the lack of good content, but whenever a good film comes out, the censor board has some problem or the other. On the other hand, films like ‘Ragini MMS2’, ‘Mastizaade’ and ‘Grand Masti’ are released with minimal omissions and cuts.
Furthermore, why has the censor Board never raised its voice over films that are misogynistic? If a film like ‘Udta Punjab’ spreads awareness about the ever-so serious drug menace in the Indian state of Punjab, what’s so wrong in that?
It seems as though the CBFC overestimatesd the role of films in influencing the public opinion and electoral outcomes. This may have been true in the past but is not true today when there are numerous forms of communication available. The CBFC also thought that people are so naive that removing the word “Punjab” from ‘Udta Punjab’ would control the damage done or make a difference to the message given by the film.
Art is bound to lose its relevance if limitations are imposed so rampantly. Political parties must refrain themselves from playing politics in every field. Veteran director Shyam Benegal, who had led the government-appointed revamp panel for the CBFC, had clearly said that the film is “pretty well made”. The CBFC needs to agree with him and let people decide what to watch and what not to watch.