Censor Board revamp: Arun Jaitley does not want any more controversies

Union I&B minister Arun Jaitely has meeting with Shyam Benegal committee yesterday in Mumbai; sources say he wants govt to be saved from further embarrassment

The Union government seems to be serious in its aim to revamp the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC), or the Censor Board. Within 10 days of forming a new committee, headed by veteran filmmaker Shyam Benegal and asked to review the operations of the Censor Board, Information and Broadcasting Minister Arun Jaitley landed in Mumbai on Saturday, to meet with the government-appointed Benegal committee. Prime on his agenda remained to cut through what many claim is a decaying bureaucracy gripping the country’s ageing Censor Board.

The Union Minister for Finance, Corporate Affairs and Information and Broadcasting Arun Jaitley interacting with filmmaker Shyam Benegal after the meeting in Mumbai on Saturday.
The Union Minister for Finance, Corporate Affairs and Information and Broadcasting Arun Jaitley interacting with filmmaker Shyam Benegal after the meeting in Mumbai on Saturday. Pic/PTI

The minister has asked Censor Board members to "meticulously follow" recommendations made by the Benegal committee.
What happened on Saturday Jaitely is believed to have said that film certification guidelines need contemporary interpretation and should be as non-discretionary as possible. The mechanism for certifying films and documentaries should not impinge on artistic creativity and freedom.

Union Minister of State for Information and Broadcasting Rajyavardhan Rathore was also present at the meeting. Other committee members — noted filmmaker Rakyesh Omprakash Mehra, advertising and communication expert Piyush Pandey, film journalist and critic Bhawana Somayaa, NFDC Managing Director Nina Lath Gupta and Joint Secretary, Films, Sanjay Murthy — were also present. Rathore expressed confidence that the committee would provide a holistic framework for interpretation of the provisions of Cinematograph Act and Rules for the benefit of the chairperson and other members of the CBFC Screening Committee.

Benegal said there is a need to move towards a new system of grading films in terms of age, maturity, sensibility and sensitivity instead of censorship.

He said they also discussed how the committee would function and work on what the guidelines and policies should be like of the Censor Board while clearing a movie. "There might be amendments and changes in the (existing) guidelines," Benegal said.

The committee will study the existing procedure being followed by CBFC for certification of original films, their dubbed versions as well as recertification of films for screening on other media platforms.

It will also study various directives of courts as well as notifications issued by other government agencies like Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Ministry of Environment and Forests, Animal Welfare Board of India which have a bearing on the process of film certification.

No overnight miracles
Jaitley, claimed sources in Delhi, has told the committee members that he would not be able to do wonders overnight but would definitely cut through the chaff of bureaucracy in the board that hampered its functioning.

"The minister has expressed his dismay and disgust at the way office bearers routinely avoid transfers, citing their proximity to top officers (of Joint Secretary level) in the Information and Broadcasting ministry," claimed a senior ministry official on conditions of anonymity.

"Jaitley has made it clear that the government should not be saddled with another controversy," the official said.
The official cited the example of some severe cuts the CBFC made in Sanjay Suri production, Chauranga, where a lovemaking scene was deleted and yet, the film got an A certificate, triggering uproar in the social media.

Among recent discussions Jaitley had with Bengal and his team, such issues of high-handedness surfaced time and again. The minister, who had a total grip on the workings of the ministry and its bodies like the Censor Board, told the members he was aware how once Leela Samson, the head of the board got into a slugfest with a Mumbai-based Censor Board official who openly defied Samson, saying he had contacts in the ministry.

"The idea is to lead the committee function, so that characters like [Pahlaj] Nihalani cannot mess things around," said the official, adding there were chances that Jaitley could have had a word with Nihalani, the current head of the CFBC, whose countenance in the board is ascribed to his proximity to BJP President Amit Shah.

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