Central Board of Film Certification
The Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) (often referred to as the Censor Board) is a statutory censorship and classification body under the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Government of India. It is tasked with "regulating the public exhibition of films under the provisions of the Cinematograph Act 1952". Films can be publicly exhibited in India only after they are certified by the Board, including films shown on television. CBFC India is considered to be one of the most powerful film censor boards in the world due to its strict ways of functioning.
|Ministry of Information and Broadcasting|
Though the first film in India (Raja Harishchandra) was produced in 1913 by Dadasaheb Phalke, the Indian Cinematograph Act was passed and came into effect only in 1920. Censor Boards (as they were called then) were placed under police chiefs in cities of Madras (now Chennai), Bombay (now Mumbai), Calcutta (now Kolkata), Lahore (now in Pakistan) and Rangoon (now Yangon in Burma). Regional censors were independent. After Independence autonomy of regional censors was abolished and they were brought under the Bombay Board of Film Censors. With the implementation of Cinematograph Act, 1927, the board was unified and reconstituted, as the Central Board of Film Censors in 1952. Cinematograph (Certification) Rules were revised in 1983 and since then the Central Board of Film Censors became known as the Central Board of Film Certification.
Certificates and censorship
Films are certified under 4 categories. Initially, there were only two categories of certificates – "U" (unrestricted public exhibition) and "A" (restricted to adult audiences). Two more categories were added in June 1983 – "U/A" (unrestricted public exhibition subject to parental guidance for children below the age of twelve) and "S" (restricted to specialized audiences such as doctors or scientists). In addition to these certifications, the board may also refuse to certify.
- U (Unrestricted Public Exhibition)
Films with the U certification are fit for unrestricted public exhibition and are family friendly. These films can contain universal themes like education, family, drama, romance, sci-fi, action etc. Now, these films can also contain some mild violence, but it should not be prolonged. It may also contain very mild sexual scenes (without any traces of nudity or sexual detail).
- U/A (Parental Guidance for children below the age of 12 years)
Films with the U/A certification can contain moderate adult themes, that is not strong in nature and can be watched by a child under parental guidance. These films contain moderate to strong violence, moderate sex scenes (very little traces of nudity and moderate sexual detail can be found), frightening scenes or muted abusive and filthy language.
- A (Restricted to adults)
Films with the A certification are available for public exhibition, but with restriction to adults. These films can contain heavily strong violence, strong sex (but full frontal and rear nudity is not allowed usually), strong abusive language (but words which insults or degrades women are not allowed), and even some controversial and adult themes considered unsuitable for young viewers. Such films are often recertified for TV and video viewing, which doesn't happen in case of U and U/A certified movies.
- S (Restricted to any special class of persons)
Films with S certification should not be viewed by the public. Only people associated with it (Engineers, Doctors, Scientists, etc.), have permission to watch those films.
Additionally, V/U, V/UA, V/A are used for video releases with U, U/A and A carrying the same meaning as above.
- Refusal to certify.
In addition to the certifications above, there is also the possibility of the board refusing to certify the film at all.
Guidelines for certification :
- anti-social activities such as violence are not glorified or justified
- the modus operandi of criminals, other visuals or words likely to incite the commission of any offence are not depicted;
- scenes -
- showing the involvement of children in violence as victims or perpetrators or as forced witnesses to violence, or showing children as being subjected to any form of child abuse.
- showing abuse or ridicule of physically and mentally handicapped persons; and
- showing cruelty to, or abuse of animals, are not presented needlessly
- pointless or avoidable scenes of violence, cruelty, and horror, scenes of violence primarily intended to provide entertainment and such scenes as may have the effect of de-sensitizing or de-humanizing people are not shown;
- scenes which have the effect of justifying or glorifying drinking are not shown;
- scenes tending to encourage, justify or glamorize drug addiction are not shown;
- scenes tending to encourage, justify or glamorize consumption of tobacco or smoking are not shown;
- human sensibilities are not offended by vulgarity, obscenity or depravity;
- such dual meaning words as obviously cater to baser instincts are not allowed;
- scenes degrading or denigrating women in any manner are not presented;
- scenes involving sexual violence against women like attempt to rape, rape or any form of molestation or scenes of a similar nature are avoided, and if any such incidence is germane to the theme, they shall be reduced to the minimum and no details are shown
- scenes showing sexual perversions shall be avoided and if such matters are germane to the theme they shall be reduced to the minimum and no details are shown
- visuals or words contemptuous of racial, religious or other groups are not presented
- visuals or words which promote communal, obscurantist, anti-scientific and anti-national attitude are not presented
- the sovereignty and integrity of India is not called in question;
- the security of the State is not jeopardized or endangered
- friendly relations with foreign States are not strained;
- public order is not endangered
- visuals or words involving defamation of an individual or a body of individuals, or contempt of court are not presented. EXPLANATION: Scenes that tend to create scorn, disgrace or disregard of rules or undermine the dignity of court will come under the term ''Contempt of Court'' : and
- national symbols and emblems are not shown except in accordance with the provisions of the Emblems and Names (Prevention of Improper Use) Act, 1950 (12 of 1950)
- The Board of Film Certification shall also ensure that the film
- Is judged in its entirety from the point of view of its overall impact; and
- Is examined in the light of the period depicted in the films and the contemporary standards of the country and the people to which the film relates provided that the film does not affect the morality of the audience
- The Board shall scrutinize the titles of the films carefully and ensure that they are not provocative, vulgar, offensive or violative of any of the above-mentioned guidelines.
Since 2004, censorship is rigorously enforced. There have been reported instances where exhibitor's staff - the booking clerk who sold the ticket, the usher who took minors to the seat, the theatre manager and the partners of the theatre complex - were arrested for non-compliance with certificate rules.
Composition and leadership
The Board consists of 25 other non-official members and a Chairperson (all of whom are appointed by Central Government). Prasoon Joshi currently presides the board, being appointed as the 28th Chairperson of the Board on 11 August 2017, after the ouster of Pahlaj Nihalani, who was preceded by Leela Samson who had resigned after the CBFC's rejection of a certificate for the film MSG: Messenger of God was overturned by an appellate tribunal. Earlier, Leela Samson had succeeded Sharmila Tagore, who was the longest continuous running Chairperson in the history. Nihalani was the 27th Chairperson after the Board's establishment. His appointment was highly controversial given his propensity for censoring films instead of merely certifying them.
The Board functions with its headquarters at Mumbai. It has nine Regional offices each at:
- New Delhi
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 two years.
Chairpersons of the CBFC
|1||C S Aggarwal||15 January 1951||14 June 1954|
|2||B D Mirchandani||15 June 1954||9 June 1955|
|3||M D Bhatt||10 June 1955||21 November 1959|
|4||D L Kothari||22 November 1959||24 March 1960|
|5||B D Mirchandani||25 March 1960||1 November 1960|
|6||D L Kothari||2 November 1960||22 April 1965|
|7||B P Bhatt||23 April 1965||22 April 1968|
|8||R P Nayak||31 April 1968||15 November 1969|
|9||M V Desai||12 December 1969||19 October 1970|
|10||R Srinivasan||20 October 1970||15 November 1971|
|11||Virendra Vyas||11 February 1972||30 June 1976|
|12||K L Khandpur||1 July 1976||31 January 1981|
|13||Hrishikesh Mukherjee||1 February 1981||10 August 1982|
|14||Aparna Mohile||11 August 1982||14 March 1983|
|15||Sharad Upasani||15 March 1983||9 May 1983|
|16||Surresh Mathur||10 May 1983||7 July 1983|
|17||Vikram Singh||8 July 1983||19 February 1989|
|18||Moreshwar Vanmali||20 February 1989||25 April 1990|
|19||B P Singhal||25 April 1990||1 April 1991|
|20||Shakti Samanta||1 April 1991||25 June 1998|
|21||Asha Parekh||25 June 1998||25 September 2001|
|22||Vijay Anand||26 September 2001||19 July 2002|
|23||Arvind Trivedi||20 July 2002||16 October 2003|
|24||Anupam Kher||16 October 2003||13 October 2004|
|25||Sharmila Tagore||13 October 2004||31 March 2011|
|26||Leela Samson||1 April 2011||16 January 2015|
|27||Pahlaj Nihalani||19 January 2015||11 August 2017|
|28||Prasoon Joshi||12 August 2017||Present|
CBFC has been associated with various scandals. Movie producers reportedly bribe the CBFC to get 'U' certificate to avail 30% exemption in entertainment tax despite violent scenes and coarse dialogues.
In 2002, the film War and Peace, depicting scenes of nuclear testing and the September 11, 2001 attacks, created by Anand Patwardhan, was asked to make 21 cuts before it was allowed to have the certificate for release. Patwardhan objected, saying "The cuts that they asked for are so ridiculous that they won't hold up in court" and "But if these cuts do make it, it will be the end of freedom of expression in the Indian media." The court decreed the cuts unconstitutional and the film was shown uncut. The same year, Indian filmmaker and former chief of the country's film censor board, Vijay Anand, kicked up a controversy with a proposal to legalize the exhibition of X-rated films in selected cinemas across the country, saying "Porn is shown everywhere in India clandestinely ... and the best way to fight this onslaught of blue movies is to show them openly in theatres with legally authorized licences". He resigned within a year after taking charge of the censor board after facing widespread criticism of his moves.
In 2003, CBFC banned the film Gulabi Aaina (The Pink Mirror), a film on Indian transsexuals produced and directed by Sridhar Rangayan. The censor board cited that the film was "vulgar and offensive". The filmmaker appealed twice again unsuccessfully. The film still remains banned in India, but has screened at numerous festivals all over the world and won awards. The critics have applauded it for its "sensitive and touching portrayal of marginalised community".
In 2004, the documentary Final Solution, which looks at religious rioting between Hindus and Muslims, was banned. The film follows 2002 clashes in the western state of Gujarat, which left more than 1,000 people dead. The censor board justified the ban, saying it was "highly provocative and may trigger off unrest and communal violence". The ban was lifted in October 2004 after a sustained campaign.
In 2006, seven states (Nagaland, Punjab, Goa, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh) have banned the release or exhibition of the Hollywood movie The Da Vinci Code (and also the book), although the CBFC cleared the film for adult viewing throughout India. However, the respective high courts lifted the ban and the movie was shown in the two states.
The CBFC demanded five cuts from the 2011 American film The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo because of some scenes containing rape and nudity. The producers and the director David Fincher finally decided not to release the film in India.
In 2013, Kamal Haasan's Vishwaroopam was banned from the screening for a period of two weeks in Tamil Nadu.
In 2015, the CBFC demanded four cuts (three visual and one audio) from the art-house Malayalam feature film Chaayam Poosiya Veedu (The Painted House) directed by brothers Santosh Babusenan and Satish Babusenan because the film contained scenes where the female lead was shown in the nude. The directors refused to make any changes whatsoever to the film and hence the film was denied a certificate.
Chairperson of CBFC Leela Samson resigned alleging political interference after the CBFC's rejection of a certificate for the film MSG: Messenger of God was overturned by an appellate tribunal. She was later replaced by Pahlaj Nihalani. His appointment caused more than half the board members to resign alleging Pahlaj Nihalani is close to the present ruling party.
In 2016, the film Udta Punjab, produced by Anurag Kashyap and Ekta Kapoor among others, ran into trouble with the CBFC, resulting in a very public re-examination of the ethics of film censorship in India. The film, which depicted a structural drug problem in the state of Punjab, used a lot of expletives and showed scenes of drug use. The CBFC, on 9 June 2016, released a list of 94 cuts and 13 pointers, including the deletion of names of cities in Punjab. On 13 June, the film was cleared by the Bombay High Court with one cut and disclaimers. The court ruled that, contrary to the claims of the CBFC, the film was not out to "malign" the state of Punjab, and that it "wants to save people". Thereafter, the film was faced with further controversy when a print of it was leaked online on a torrent site. The quality of the copy, along with the fact that there was supposedly a watermark that said "censor" on top of the screen, raised suspicions that the CBFC itself had leaked the copy to spite the filmmakers. It also contained the only scene that had been cut according to the High Court order. While the CBFC claimed innocence, the lingering suspicions resulted in a tense release, with the filmmakers and countless freedom of expression advocates taking to social media to appeal to the public to watch the film in theatres, as a conscious challenge against excessive censorship on art in India. Kashyap himself asked viewers to wait till the film released before they downloaded it for free, stating that he didn't have a problem with illegal downloads, an unusual thing for a film producer to say. The film eventually released and grossed over $13 million finishing as a commercial success. In August 2017, soon after his removal as CBFC Chief, Nihalani revealed in an interview that he had received instructions from the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting to block the release of the film.
In 2017, the film Lipstick Under My Burkha directed by Alankrita Shrivastava and produced by Prakash Jha, also ran into trouble with the CBFC which refused to certify the film, stating that "The story is lady oriented, their fantasy above life. There are contagious [sic] sexual scenes, abusive words, audio pornography and a bit sensitive touch about one particular section of society." Internationally, the film had been screened in over 35 film festivals across the world and notably earned eleven international awards prior to its official release in India, becoming an eligible entry for the Golden Globe Award Ceremony. The filmmakers appealed this decision to the Film Certification Appellate Tribunal (FCAT), which overruled the censor board's ruling, thereby granting the film a theatrical release rights. FCAT asked the filmmakers to make some cuts, mostly related to the sex scenes, at their discretion. The film released with an "A" or adults certificate, equivalent to an NC-17 rating in the United States, with some voluntary edits. Shrivastava told Agence-France Presse: "Of course I would have loved no cuts, but the FCAT has been very fair and clear. I feel that we will be able to release the film without hampering the narrative or diluting its essence."
In August 2017, Pahlaj Nahalani was removed as the Chairperson of the CBFC. In an interview days after his removal, he revealed that the Government of India had, in at least two instances, issued direct instructions to the Board on blocking or delaying the release of particular films.
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