Director Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra, the man behind films like Rang De Basanti which explore a ‘rebel-with-a-cause’ theme, has come up with a solution that could make the Censor Board’s work easier – restrict children from watching, and don’t change the film. In a recent interview with the Times of India, Mehra, who was a part of Shyam Benegal’s Censor Board Revising Committee, said that banning films was not a solution, and that the film industry needed to work with the Censor Board for a larger goal – protecting children.
Five months ago, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley had asked the Committee to find solutions that would help the Board evolve out of its ‘outdated values’. “For five months we met frequently. We then inducted Kamal Haasan, as a representative from the South, and Goutam Ghose came from Kolkata. We all understood that this could be the turning point for our cinema and made every effort that we could,” he Mehra in the interview.
The Committee had collectively agreed that anti-smoking disclaimers were a distraction from the narrative. It recommended that the ‘meaningful static warning’ on smoking be displayed only once, at the beginning of the film. Further, filmmakers from the panel suggested that the film industry, in consultation with the Health Ministry, should make small films on the subject, and screen it in theatres and on television.
Insisting that the role of the Censor Board was to protect children and not curb storytelling, Mehra felt that the need of the hour was to change censorship laws, especially when the censor board’s view on morality comes into play. The Committee substantiated its suggestions after a thorough examination of Indian cenorship laws, an understanding of the Mudgal Committee, and after hearing from women’s rights groups, child rights groups, and animal rights groups. It also looked into censorship laws in other countries including the USA and Australia.
“What emerged was that the role of the Censor Board is to protect the children of this country. We have to protect the children from abuse – abuse can be excessive drugs, violence, sex or use of abusive language. Having said that, if your movie has all that, just restrict the children, don’t restrict the expression. We all agreed that there cannot be a scissor, we have to abolish what we have right and now start from scratch. So there is no adult, no universal rating,” he said.
Regarding disclaimers, the Committee had used examples from older films to argue that smoking isn’t glorified in cinema. “Remember the song ‘Main Zindagi Ka Saath Nibhata Chala Gaya’? Dev Anand was the hero, was in the Army, desh ke liye jaan de raha hai, and he is smoking. We all know it’s bad, but banning it in films is not the solution. We suggested that the industry will have to take a bigger responsibility,” said Mehra. Another suggestion was to have actors like Rajinikanth appear on screen before the film began and clarify that it was the character smoking and not the actor. “There should be self-censorship, you cannot govern the industry by putting a disclaimer on every scene,” he added.
The Committee has submitted the second part of their recommendations, which includes regulations on using animals in films. The submissions will soon be available to the public, after consideration by the Information and Broadcasting Ministry.
Feature Image Courtesy: The Indian Express