The censor board of India or the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) is perhaps the biggest bane for our Bollywood industry.
In the last couple of years, they have made some questionable decisions all while justifying them as safeguarding the Indian culture.
Filmmakers quake in fear when sending their films to the censor board, terrified of how many cuts they will ask, or which important and hard worked on scene will they ask to be removed. Sometimes because of just one scene, a film might get an adult rating which would limit the reach of the film.
But while most of us are ever ready to curse and fight the censor board for their baseless acts, justified they may be though, have we ever thought exactly how these films are certified in the first place?
One thing that people must realise is that the original purpose of the CBFC is only to regulate and not prohibit something. They are supposed to observe the films that are meant for public consumption and at the most ask for cuts of scenes that could result in social unrest, are derogatory towards any sector of people or too graphic.
Even still, to not completely prohibit any piece of art, there are the different certificates that a film get. Through this, the public will understand the kind of film it is and decide on their own whether to view it or not.
At present, there are 4 certificates that a film can get:
U- This category certifies that the film is suitable for all ages and unrestricted.
UA- This rating certifies that even though it is suitable for unrestricted public exhibition, there might be some scenes or portions in the film that could be unsuitable for children under 12.
A- If a film gets this rating then it becomes an ‘adults only’ one and children below a certain age cannot get view it.
S- This is a special rating given to films that are only for a certain audience like doctors, etc.
The film certification rules are quite ambiguous and arbitrary and according to the film certification laws in India, the censor board has the authority, in case the filmmaker refuses to incorporate the changes and cuts pointed out by the CBFC, to deny certifying that film.
As per the Cinematograph Rule 41, a film to be certified takes about 70 days, give or take a few.
The actual process of the film certification goes something like:
1. The makers of the film must file an application to certify the film in writing to the regional officer of their chosen regional center.
2. After all the necessary documents, film material, fees, and any written matter as per rules is submitted, the officer will be forming an Examining Committee. This committee is usually the first step in the CBFC and will consist of about 4-5 CBFC members, excluding the Chairman.
3. The members after viewing the film will create their individual reports about any modifications or cuts that the film requires and the certificate that the film should be given.
4. This process can take about a week, with most makers sending their film about a week from release and usually complying with the changes requested by the board so as to not delay the release of the film.
5. In some cases, the Chairman of CBFC can also on their own or the applicants request move the film forward to the Revising Committee.
6. This committee will have the Chairman in it and the members will be completely different from the Examining Committee.
7. As per earlier with the Examining Committee, this committee too will view the film without any cuts or changes, make their individual reports and give their verdict for the film.
8. The Chairman can also, if they do not agree with the majority’s decision, call for a 2nd Revising Committee.
9. Even if after all this, the film does not pass certification, the makers can appeal to the FCAT or the Film Certification Appellate Tribunal which comprises of a retired judge and other senior industry people.
10. This process can take about a month to be completed as bringing the panel together can take a while.
Thus, this was the process of how a film gets its certification, but even at the end of it, the actual decision making remains quite vague and suggestive of different thinking. The process to the censor board definitely needs to be made better so that a film is not dependent on the personal thinking of the members so much.
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