Panel at KNIFF calls for more organized fight against film censorship

Day 2 of the Kazhcha-NIV Indie Film Festival on Saturday (8 December) saw a panel discuss the ‘myth and realities of film certification and censoring’ in India.

The session, titled ‘Certification And Censoring: Myth and Reality’, brought together voices of rebellion in cinema like the Babusenan brothers (directors Santosh and Satish Babusenan); film critic Sachin Chatte; advocate Vijay Paul; film producer Anil Thomas; and Vijayakrishnan, film critic and former member of the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC), popularly known as the censor board.

They came together to ponder over the nuances of censorship in India. Santosh Babusenan advocated for films and works of art that would help people to understand the dire need to peel off guidelines that curb the freedom of expression.

Satish Babusenan said freedom is not something that will be served on a platter and artists ought to take it forcibly through their works. He cited the difficulties the brothers had to face to have their critically acclaimed movie The Painted House (2015, Chaayam Poosiya Veedu in Malayalam) certified. Rather than censorship by external means, he upheld the idea of self-censorship, saying that should suffice.

Sachin Chatte provided the example of the way films are certified in the United States. He pointed to the way norms in the US evolved with changing times, with the Hays Code being replaced by the Motion Picture Production Code. He vehemently questioned the CBFC’s right to censor a film when it is simply supposed to certify it as U, U/A or A.

Anil Thomas, who directed the acclaimed Minnaminingu (2017), pointed out the double standards followed by the Indian system. While “over-the-top” platforms like Netflix and Amazon Prime Video get away with their so-called provocative scenes, feature films are made to bear the brunt, he said.

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Renowned critic Vijayakrishnan highlighted how everybody’s sentiments are easily hurt these days. Explaining the difference between reading a book and watching a film, he said the former is a private experience while the latter is a public phenomenon and, perhaps, that is why there is need for certification and censorship. However, he admitted that the people entrusted with the task are clueless about the nuances of the art and blindly follow the guidelines.

Advocate Vijay Paul said the regulations and guidelines are so vast that it is quite tough for a movie to escape uncut. According to him, it is the morality of the dominant groups that gets imposed upon others.

When it came to finding a solution to the problem of censorship, suggestions like challenging the constitutionality of the guidelines, setting qualification standards for CBFC members, and making more and more movies to challenge censorship came up.

It was observed during the discussion that the cumbersome legal process prevents filmmakers from fighting the censorship of their work legally.

After the discussion within the panel and the interaction with the audience, ideas like having uniformity between the director and producer of a film and the incongruence of films being under the information and broadcasting ministry were highlighted.

The discussion concluded with the panellists agreeing that a more concrete and organized effort must be made against the censorship menace in India.

The Kazhcha-Niv Indie Film Festival is being held in Trivandrum from 7-10 December 2018.

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