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Shabana Azmi: “CBFC Here To Certify Films; Censoring Is Not Its Prerogative”

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Shabana Azmi, CBFC

Shabana Azmi has said that it is the filmmakers who should determine what and how much is cut from a film, and that the CBFC should not. 

According to a story in HT, Shabana was asked recently if she would take charge of the CBFC, as others before her have.  The actress said, “It’s so wrong to call the CBFC the Censor Board in the first place. It is here to certify films; censoring any scene is not its prerogative. The fact is that the Cinematograph Act of 1952 needs serious revision, and we have to leave it to the filmmakers to decide whether they are open to any cuts in the film or not.”

Referring to the Shyam Benegal Committee which has been looking at overhauling the Cinematograph Act, and streamlining the duties of the CBFC, Shabana said, “The Shyam Benegal committee has been saying exactly the same thing: that censorship or certifying system needs to change. Even before this committee, there was the Justice Mukul Mudgal panel, in which Javed (Akhtar) saab was also a member, and they also suggested many changes. So, we are only waiting for those changes to be implemented.”

Shabana further added that India has been following a British system of certification, in which a committee drawn from society determines what is morally acceptable or not, and passes judgement on the film. “Because, however much you say that it’s an autonomous body, the fact is that those people are taken on the board have some kind of affinity with the ruling party, whether it’s the Congress or the BJP. Now, this is not good for any country’s art.”

Instead, Shabana suggested that we follow the American system. “…where you have a board of people from within the film industry and they decide… the filmmaker decides ‘I don’t want a single cut in my film, but I recognise that it’s not suitable for children, or not suitable for people of certain age, so I am willing to take an XXX certificate.’ Or if a filmmaker says that ‘No, I want my film for universal release, so I am open to the suggested cuts.’ So filmmakers need to have the power to decide, and not any board.”

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