By Monika Dilip Banode, Gujarat National Law University, Gandhinagar.

Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) is a statutory body under Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, regulating the public exhibition of films under the provisions of the Cinematograph Act 1952. Films can be publicly exhibited in India only after they have been certified by the Central Board of Film Certification.  The Board consists of non-official members and a Chairman (all of whom are appointed by Central Government) and functions with headquarters at Mumbai. It has nine Regional offices, one each at Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, Bangalore, Thiruvananthapuram, Hyderabad, New Delhi, Cuttack and Guwahati. The Regional Offices are assisted in the examination of films by Advisory Panels. The members of the panels are nominated by Central Government by drawing people from different walks of life for a period of 2 years.

The Certification process is in accordance with The Cinematograph Act, 1952, The Cinematograph (certification) Rules, 1983, and the guidelines issued by the Central government u/s 5 (B) of the said Act.

At present films are certified under 4 categories

  1. Unrestricted Public Exhibition
  2. Unrestricted Public Exhibition – but with a word of caution that Parental discretion required for children below 12 years
  3. Restricted to adults
  4. Restricted to any special class of persons

The Censor Board had recently come under a storm of criticism after its former chairperson Leela Samson quit alleging corruption. Samson resigned in January 2015 alleging government interference, a claim refuted by the Information and Broadcasting ministry, over the release of a controversial film the CBFC had refused to release in India. Pahlaj Nihalani is the recently appointed chairperson of the Central Board of Film Certification.  Soon after becoming the Chairperson of the Board, he came up with a circular of words to be banned in the films.

The circular says:

“It has been noticed that some of the objectionable words/abusive words are not still deleted from the films. The details of such words are given below. All ROs are directed not to allow such words in any category of the certificate. This is also applicable to regional languages films”.

The chairman of the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC), Pahlaj Nihalani has sent the circular to the Producers Association and Regional Officers along with the list of words that should not be used in movies. The list of the words contains 30 the general cuss words with separate heads in English and Hindi. The usual suspects – fuck, screw, cunt, pussy, dick, fucking dick, are part of the list of course, along with their Hindi counterpart. After this circular various other words are to be banned in the movies.

Pahlaj Nihalani doesn’t even want to approve even one bit of the uptick in on-screen cussing. The censor board has issued a list of words and phrases that will invite bleeps or outright deletions even if the movies using them are meant for adult viewers. The censor board has further classified the words into profanity, double entendres and euphemisms.  This directive has made the work of the writers, film-makers and actors, those who work on themes revolving around crime and adaptations of actual incidents, vulnerable. It will become very difficult for these persons to portray the theme of the movie in the way they want to show and many a times when the scene requires certain words to be uttered by the artists for instance if a villain is standing in front of the actor after killing his girlfriend, there cannot be love conversation between them. Twitter, face book and elsewhere this move of the Central Board of Film Certification is widely and severely criticized on the ground that it is poorly timed, deeply autocratic and heavily undesirable.

Films are more realistic and are showing whatever is happening in real life by picking a very general story to make it a special one by portraying it in the best manner. Directors, Script writers and actors work hard in order to make their films a realistic one. When a person is angry for instance he uses cuss words. We are very used to see heroes and heroines as moralistic, but the lines have now blurred. As an audience member, we are going to watch a movie of your own free will. If you are not comfortable with the content and wordings of the movie then you won’t opt for going to the movie. That is the thing which has to be considered by the censor board and the words should not be banned.

The acts of banning things and constantly forcing people to subvert give rise to a kind of repression that manifests itself in strange ways. This behavior seems to be a by-product of consumerism, where people think that they have no choice because everything is going out of control and being forced down their throats. People feel that there is no compass any more –faith, religion, morality – and they hit out at anything that seems to be annoying. Slowly, whatever you do not buy will begin to annoy you.

Profanity is not offensive. By controlling words, the content of the movie cannot be controlled, only the effect of contain can be reduced. Profanity should be allowed in films certified for adults. In fact, there shouldn’t be a ban on anything in adult films. They are not hoardings that you will look at no matter what. The Censor Board will have to change the list of banned words. It is arbitrary and some part of the list is even incomprehensible for instance the word ‘Bombay’ cannot be used in the movies.  The reasoning behind this is by using the word ‘Bombay’, the sentiments of the city would be hurt. This is really an illogical reasoning placed in order to justify one’s own act.

The main characteristics of the circular is that according to it, these words cannot be able to be used for any category of film be it Adult category. Even if these words are restricted in the movies with “U” certificate would be justified. But banning the words in all the categories is not justified at all. In the present era of advance social networking where the users of the social media are increasing day by day at an immense rate, such a move to direct certain words to be banned is not justified. Today the users of the media are so keen to touch the originality of the content that many a times the viewer watches a movie just because it contains reality.

There are a number of examples of low budget movies which are super hit because of the original content it contains. These days directors, actors, script writers they are working so hard to make their movies original one that they reside in the locality which has to be portrayed in the movie. This is an era when the Hollywood movies are touching the sky and in Bollywood we are still discussing what words are to be used in the movies and what to be skipped.

Any act done by a public body has to have an object sought to be achieved through their act. But in this case, the object sought to be achieved is somewhat irrelevant in the present day context of modern world where people want to see the grass route reality instead of fake dramas. Instead warning should be displayed on the posters that the movie contains certain words which would not be appropriate for some users.