Previously, many films got an easy ride from the censor despite containing intimate scenes, for example “Befikre”, “OK Jaanu” and “Begum Jaan”.
But by cutting scenes from “Love Aaj Kal” , a movie that describes various love sagas in different eras, starring Sara Ali Khan and Kartik Aaryan, some observers are questioning whether the CBFC is discriminating amongst filmmakers?
Pahlaj Nihalani, a former chief censor who drew flak during his tenure between February 2015 and August, 2017 for being too “regressive” in his ideas and thoughts, says that the film industry needs to update the rule book.
“I think they are following the rule book and there is no change till date even when I was there. Right now the language of the film has completely changed and even the content has changed. So, there needs to be a modification in the rule book,” Nihalani told Sputnik.
He also says that Censor Board of Film Certification (CBFC), a statutory censorship and classification body under the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Government of India, is treating film certification on a case by case basis.
“For some pictures, they are closing the eyes and not following the rule books. If you see and count there are many abusive languages used in some films but they have closed their eyes because the person who is taking the decision (there) is a regional officer. He is watching all the big movies and clearing it. Also, if the person (from the film industry) is known to the government or chairperson, that person is not given any trouble. In ‘Love Aaj Kal’, they completely chucked out kissing and intimate scene. So they are dealing from person to person,” he said.
During his tenure, Nihalani released a list of words that would no longer be 'allowed' in movies, including 'f*ck' and 'Bombay' (that is now named as Mumbai). He again made headlines for asking 94 cuts for “Udta Punjab, a film that described the drug crisis in Punjab.
Prasoon Joshi became the new chairman of the CBFC in August 2017. But the controversies are still continuing.
In January 2018, filmmaker Abhishek Saxena, who made a film on menstruation titled “Phullu” targeted actor Akshay Kumar (a supporter of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi) and his producer wife Twinkle Khanna for making a film on the same subject called “Padman” even after his own film was announced and he had already received the certificate.
In an interview with Indian publication Asian Age, Saxena blamed CBFC for playing favourites as they gave 'PadMan' a U/A Certificate while he his film got an "A" certificate due to its alleged adult content.
“Because of the "A" certificate we faced so many losses,” he said.
In a time when the Indian audience has matured a lot, should the CBFC rulebook be modified?
“I feel that until and unless the rules are going to modify and the rating system will come, there won’t be any solution. There is only three rating system so far, U, U/A and A and that is the big difficulty to clear the picture with these guidelines. During my tenure, everyone was making the noise because there was no way out to clear the movie. However, in today’s time filmmakers are not making noise because they are doing it in other ways."
“Also the adult content has shifted to web series and there is no censor on that. One can watch semi porn content on digital platforms so why this double standard by the I&B ministry. Why can’t there be a check on the digital medium too?” says Nihalani.
However, National Award-winning director Hansal Mehta, who has had his share of controversies with the CBFC in the past, says that the censor is working to the best of its abilities.
“Well we have been saying this for years (to give ratings not a certification for films) and I am tired of talking about CBFC now because the way country is going, there are so many extra-constitutional bodies that are sort of want to decide what should be in your films and what is right or wrong. People are taking moral or religious stands and CBFC is actually and unfortunately redundant in the whole scheme of things. I feel they are doing best actually to work within the frame work and to give you certification,” Mehta told Sputnik.
“CBFC right now is actually doing a good job and working within the existing framework,” he added.