BIFFes: Filmmakers call censorship ‘absurd’ and ‘fascist’

Several film makers, led by M.S. Sathyu, recounted the ordeal they had to face in their creative careers.

Several film makers, led by M.S. Sathyu, recounted the ordeal they had to face in their creative careers.   | Photo Credit: Sudhakara Jain


Instead, they argued, the industry should practice self-censorship

The recent controversies over censorship of films took centre stage on Saturday at a debate on the second day of Bengaluru International Film Festival (BIFFes). Most filmmakers strongly opposed it, instead arguing that the industry should practice self-censorship.

At a panel discussion ‘Censorship in India’, several filmmakers, led by M.S. Sathyu, recounted the ordeal they had to face in their creative careers.

“In a democracy, censorship is an absurd concept, and the recent controversies were the sign of the fascist times we live in,” said Mr. Sathyu, recounting several run-ins that he had with the censor board for films from Garam Hava (1974) to his Kannada drama Ijjodu (2010). “After 11 months of censors holding back Garam Hava, the film went on to win a national and several international awards. This exposes the hollowness of the censors,” he added.

Filmmakers also expressed concern over the emergence of super-censorship by political parties and leaders. “More than the censors, I am afraid of the super censors that have emerged... The Shiv Sena demanded to see my film Garam Hava, and the Karni Sena opposed Padmaavat (2018) without even seeing the film. Now it’s Manikarnika, a film on Rani Laxmibai of Jhansi. We have a fascist government today, which wants to leave its stamp on the films and the super censors are a way,” said Mr. Sathyu.

Festival director Rajendra Singh Babu recounted how his films Antha (1981) and Muthina Haara (1990) faced hurdles. “My film Antha was cleared by the censors but, after its release, the government felt the film opposed it and later butchered it. The film was eventually banned after 13 weeks at the theatres,” he said, seeking an explanation on the fate of the Shyam Benegal Committee report on forming fresh guidelines for film certification.

Filmmaker Babu Eshwar Prasad said that it is the responsibility of filmmakers to fight for their creative expression till the end, without compromising over commercial considerations.

The issue of selective censorship — where pro-government or pro-Hindutva expressions went through without hurdles, but those seeking to challenge the ideology being ‘scissored’ — was also brought up.

Mr. Babu pointed out that censorship only for films is absurd, as society is mature enough to see uncensored content on television and internet.

“It is surprising that smaller countries that have far lesser freedoms and democratic practices produce films that filmmakers in India cannot even dream of doing. and it is evident in the films we select for every festival,” said N. Vidyashankar, artistic director, BIFFes. “A society with censorship is not a healthy society,” he said.

T.S. Nagabharana, a member of the Central Board of Film Certification, who was scheduled to chair the session, did not attend the discussion.

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Printable version | Dec 13, 2019 6:32:28 PM |

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