Thursday, December 16, 2010


Draft cinematograph bill of 2010 in a very tacit way brings out an emerging tendency of growing state control on freedom of expressions in the art medium. Regulation of expressions in cinema has been done through censorship in India and this censorship has followed the guidelines of “Cinematograph Act” of 1952.
Before any Indian movie starts we see a certification titled Central Board of Film Certificate. Any film is released to public after it has been certified by the regulatory body giving CBFC certification. Central Board of Film Censorship became Central Board of Film Certificate in 1982 following an amendment in the Cinematograph Act of 1952.
The important question is who governs the CBFC and who controls the medium of expression through art form in India. As of now the industry participation in this board deciding film certification is less and often there is a political lineage that governs dictum, decision making of CBFC.
Political lineage indirectly allows a larger state domination in the board. The logic which is given for a state control is that, film is an important medium of expression and can influence the society. So any content in such a powerful medium should have a social responsibility and must contribute to the welfare of the society. Thus state has an obligation to control the expression form in cinema.
But often a large state participation can reduce and create claustrophobic environment for a creator in this powerful expression of art i.e. cinema. Too much state intervention in the decision making board can act as a hindering factor towards new forms of experimentation in cinema. The question is - what should be the regulatory structure of this board that governs the state of the forms of expressions in Indian cinema.
We need to ask questions on how and on what principles decision making is done in the board. Also what should be the structure of the governance mechanisms of the board so that it balances the needs of the movie maker, state and the Indian society. Many times the interests can be conflictual.
So one needs to determine how the fine balancing thread line could be created which balances all the needs. An independent nature of the governance board is essential to create thriving ground for innovative experimentation in Indian cinema. Institutional structures, their nature of functioning also has a key role to play in determining what kind of new art forms are created. Participation by all actors of the sector in the decision making of the board is key towards achieving it.
Decision making and regulation of art through certification needs to have a clear cut vision and logical basis. For instance the draft Cinematograph Bill 2010 mentions of U,12+,15+. There is a need to debate what are the age limits (and on what basis they are done) one needs to define for certain forms of expressions in a cinema. Such decisions are also influenced by the state of our society and how we all and our younger generation are evolving as human beings over time. It is also influenced by how Indian society is at its roots. At the same time the cinema also gives back its impulses back towards the formation of a particular type of a society.
It is very important to have a regulatory board, institutional structure that takes account of all these finer nuances of the interaction between cinema and society and vice versa in making their decisions. At the same time it should also take care of the agents who play a key role in producing the art form by giving them the breathing space. It is a very sensitive decision making that cannot be left only to the realms of state and certain political lineages. Such decision making has to be supported by Advisory Bodies and Steering Committee guiding the decision making body. The advisory body and steering committee should comprise of sociologist, anthropologist, all experts from film industry thereby bringing a transdisciplinarity in the decision making.
In today’s highly connected digital world, censorship often gets nullified by spread of the censored expressions through other digital medium. The decision making body also has to take account of that. Thus it appears that film censorship and its nature is an intricate subject that needs inputs from various experts. The draft cinematograph bill 2010 has atleast been able to trigger these thoughts in our minds.

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