Mumbai, Oct 25 (Calcutta Tube) Censorship came under fire on day 2 of the Mumbai Film Festival (MFF) from filmmakers during a panel discussion Friday.
The firing squad at the Chandan cinema comprised filmmakers and producers and the audience. At the receiving end were two entities, members of the censor board and the invisible entity – extra-constitutional censorship practiced by political parties and rights bodies.
Filmmaker Sudhir Mishra opened the session with a simple rhetoric: ‘The censor board can object, the point is can they obstruct?’
‘When you create a sense of mistrust a sense of fear enters the head of filmmakers which is not good for the expansion of cinema,’ he went on to add.
Mukesh Bhatt highlighted his different degrees of fight with the censors, in his four decades as a filmmaker. However, it was Vinod Pande who raised the ante by bringing the issue of censorship not debated often – the extra judicial censorship.
Without naming the author or the political party, Pande named ‘Such A Long Journey’ by Rohinton Mistry and urged the industry to join the fight against censorship overall instead of limiting it to their own world. Mistry’s book was dropped from the English syllabus of Mumbai University after objections by the Shiv Sena.
Pande was vitriolic when he concluded: ‘You are talking about freedom in this country, sadly it does not exist.’
His barrage was deftly diverted by Sudhir Mishra.
One thing the entire panel was unanimous about was in singing praise of ex-Regional Officer (RO) of the CBFC, Vinayak Azad, who sensibility during his term has won him many fans in the film industry. However, Azad dropped a salvo when he reminded the audience that CBFC (Central Board of Film Certification) is not a censor but merely a certification body.
When someone asked him why the censorship policy in the country was so bad, he said: ‘CBFC is not a policy-making body, we only implement policy. It is beyond our purview to question policy.’
The bright spot, however, Azad informed was that the censorship as we know it, was slated to go. The Cinematograph Act of 1952 under which films are censored is under amendment to be more in tune with the times, he said.
He highlighted the troubles of the agency as well which, besides appeasing the ministry, had now also to deal with political parties and right activists who are offended by the depiction of something. The new CBFC Regional Officer, Pankaja Thakur, though not part of the panel, was part of the group and informed the audience that she was there to gauge the mood of the industry at the request of higher ups in the ministry.
Mahesh Bhatt’s suggestion to have representation from the producer’s guild in the board was taken up positively by both Pankaja and Vinayak. This suggestion was looked up as a concrete step for the industry.