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FICCI Frames: Certifying and not censoring

By afaqs! news bureau , afaqs!, Chennai | In Media | November 20, 2009
This pre-lunch session at FICCI Frames moderated by none other than the actor Kamal Hassan, who is also the chairman of FICCI Media & Entertainment Business Conclave, delved into a very controversial topic - the role of censorship

The Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) is popularly known as the censor board. However, Babu Ramasami, the regional officer of CBFC Chennai, pointed out that the sole objective of the board is to certify a movie into three categories - U, UA and A, and not moral policing.

This pre-lunch session at FICCI Frames moderated by none other than Kamal Hassan who is also the chairman of FICCI Media & Entertainment Business Conclave delved into a very controversial topic - the role of censorship.

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The panel debated why X-rated movies are not allowed which could have a different screening. Ramasami advocated against it saying that while the certification can be implemented in the cities, in rural areas, there is a dilution of viewership for A certified movies and children watch it without any parental guidance.

However, he said that the body has proposed to add two more categories to certification, while it has also proposed certification of digital movies which could be different from theatrical releases.

The issues of moral policing by several political or non-political organisations, which dictate the banning of movies even after it has acquired the certification from CBFC was also discussed. Babu said that it was the duty of the enforcement agencies to ensure the uninterrupted screening of movies after it has been cleared by the CBFC.

Sharing a few anecdotes, Ramasami said that often directors or producers react strongly when asked to delete some scenes from their movies. Ramasami recalled having told a director on whether he had read the CBFC guidelines before completing the movies. The director had then said that the guidelines would cripple his creativity. However, Ramasami said that on the contrary the CBFC has kept the guidelines a little vague so that the creativity doesn't get killed and it allows the film makers to come up with progressive ideas.

On this Hasan suggested that there could be a procedure where the filmmakers could take an informal approval from the CBFC at the script stage without an assurance the film will be cleared at the final certification stage. After reviewing the script, the CBFC could only suggest whether the film will be cleared at the final stage.

Gnana Rajsekaran, the past regional officer of CBFC Chennai, opined that CBFC was one of the most misunderstood organizations. He said though the body was in a quasi judicial function, the filmmakers do not take it seriously as often they would apply for certification only a day before the scheduled date of release of the movies especially in Chennai.

Ramasami said that the trend of submitting movies for certification a day before the release has been picking even in other parts of the country which was unprecedented in the past

Rajsekaran further said that often there is no formal presentation by the director or the producer to clarify their stand which can be crucial in bringing the gap between the filmmaker and the CBFC.

Rajesekaran further clarified that CBFC was not a quality controller because there are not Dos in CBFC guidelines instead there were only don'ts.

The question of why certain films were issued an UA certificate while a similar film was certified as A. On this Ramasami clarified that the CBFC certificate is not issued after watching the movies frame by frame, instead it's watched as an entire movie and the certification is issued keeping the subject and the context in mind.

Both Rajsekaran and Ramasami raised there concern that often filmmakers release the prints without the deletion or cuts suggested by the CBFC. Ramasami accepted that he has himself watched many print of films where the CBFC's suggestions were not implemented.