Shyam Benegal to head panel to revamp Censor Board

Noted filmmaker Shyam Benegal.  

Call it a sign of no-confidence in Pahlaj Nihalani, Chairman, Central Board of Film Certification, or an attempt to suggest corrective measures, the Union Information and Broadcasting Ministry constituted a committee, headed by the film-maker Shyam Benegal, on Friday to suggest measures to help Board members understand the nuances of film certification.

A press note from the Ministry said the recommendations of the committee were expected to provide a holistic framework for those certifying films.

Controversial decisions

The exclusion of Mr. Nihalani from the committee raises questions about his controversial decisions — from blocking cuss words to deleting scenes deemed objectionable even from adult films such as the James Bond-starrer Spectre two months ago.

Since its reconstitution in January 2015, when Mr. Nihalani and other members were chosen by the BJP-led government, the CBFC had been locked in battles over film certification.

The decision appears to suggest that an initiative is under way to educate the chairperson and the Board he presides over.

Mr. Benegal said the Ministry asked him two days ago if he would like to head a panel to review certification.

The previous UPA government had set up a panel headed by Mukul Mudgal, former Chief Justice of the Punjab and Haryana High Court, to recommend good certification processes and measures to revamp the CBFC and the nine regional Boards.

Before Mr. Mudgal, the CBFC under Leela Samson had made recommendations to revamp and restructure the certification process.

Reinventing the wheel

Asked if the government had asked him to reinvent the wheel, Mr. Benegal said the wheel had to be invented again and again because there was no such thing as Ten Commandments for films.

The guidelines for certification have been amended from time to time, with the previous amendments suggested in 1991.

The censorship of films is governed by the Cinematograph Act, 1952, and guidelines have been issued from time to time to fine-tune the process.

No cuss words

Soon after he took over, Mr. Nihalani issued an order barring filmmakers from using cuss words and setting forth what constituted sensible cinema. He was in the news for suggesting cuts in the latest James Bond film two months ago, incurring derision from viewers and social media.

The Mudgal committee had deliberated on ways to restructure the CBFC two years ago.

“I hope Mr. Benegal looks at what we have suggested and improves on it,” Mr. Mudgal said.

The press note said the Ministry tasked the Mr. Benegal committee with recommending broad guidelines and procedures under the Cinematograph Act for the benefit of the chairperson and members of the screening committee.

The committee would also look into the CBFC’s staffing pattern so as to recommend a framework for efficient, transparent and user-friendly services.

The other members are Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra, Piyush Pandey, Bhawana Somaaya and Nina Lath Gupta. Sanjay Murthy, Joint Secretary (Films), Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, is member-convener.

The committee is expected to submit its recommendations within two months.

(Corrections and clarifiacations: The article has been edited to remove a factual error)

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Printable version | Aug 2, 2021 6:09:09 AM |

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