Central Board of Film Certification
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|Formation||15 January 1951|
|Ministry of Information and Broadcasting|
The Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) is a statutory film-certification body in the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting of the Government of India. It is tasked with "regulating the public exhibition of films under the provisions of the Cinematograph Act 1952." Films screened in cinemas and on television may only be publicly exhibited in India after certification by the board.
The Indian Cinematograph Act came into effect in 1920, seven years after the production of India's first film: Dadasaheb Phalke's Raja Harishchandra. Censorship boards were originally independent bodies under the police chiefs of the cities of Madras (now Chennai), Bombay (now Mumbai), Calcutta (now Kolkata), Lahore (now in Pakistan), and Rangoon (now Yangon in Myanmar).
After the 1947 independence of India, autonomous regional censors were absorbed into the Bombay Board of Film Censors. The Cinematograph Act of 1952 reorganised the Bombay board into the Central Board of Film Censors. With the 1983 revision of cinematography rules, the body was renamed the Central Board of Film Certification.
The board's guiding principles are to ensure healthy public entertainment and education and, using modern technology, to make the certification process and board activities transparent to filmmakers, the media and the public.
Certificates and guidelines
The board currently issues four certificates. Originally, there were two: U (unrestricted public exhibition) and A (restricted to adult audiences). Two more were added in June 1983: U/A (unrestricted public exhibition, with parental guidance for children under age twelve) and S (restricted to specialised audiences, such as doctors or scientists). The board may refuse to certify a film.
The certificates are:
- U: Unrestricted public exhibition (Suitable for all age groups)
- U/A: Parental guidance for children under age 12
- A: Restricted to adults(Suitable for 18 years and above.)
- S: Restricted to a specialised groups of people, such as engineers, doctors or scientists
Sometimes alternate film certificates issued are V/U, V/UA, V/A which are similar to U, U/A, A.
• U (Unrestricted Public Exhibition)
Films with the U certification are fit for unrestricted public exhibition and are family-friendly. These films can contain universal themes like education, family, drama, romance, sci-fi, action, etc. Now, these films can also contain some mild violence, but it should not be prolonged. It may also contain mild sexual scenes (without any traces of nudity or sexual detail).
• U/A (Parental Guidance for children below the age of 12 years)
Films with the U/A certification can contain moderate adult themes, that is not strong in nature and can be watched by a child under parental guidance. These films contain moderate to strong violence, moderate sexual scenes (traces of nudity and moderate sexual detail can be found), frightening scenes or muted abusive language.
• A (Restricted to adults)
Films with the A certification are available for public exhibition, but with restriction to adults. These films can contain brutally strong violence, strong sexual scenes, strong abusive language (but words which insults or degrades women or any social group are not allowed), and even some controversial and adult themes considered unsuitable for young viewers. Such films are often re-certified for TV and video viewing, which doesn't happen in case of U and U/A certified movies.
• S (Restricted to any special class of persons)
Films with S certification should not be viewed by the public. Only people associated with it (Engineers, Doctors, Scientists, etc.), have permission to watch those films.
Additionally, V/U, V/UA, V/A are used for video releases with U, U/A and A carrying the same meaning as above.
Refusal to certify:
In addition to the certifications above, there is also the possibility of the board refusing to certify the film at all.
The board's guidelines are:
- Anti-social activities (such as violence) may not be glorified
- Criminal acts may not be depicted
- The following is prohibited:
- a) Involvement of children in violent acts or abuse
- b) Abuse or ridicule of the physically or mentally handicapped
- c) Unnecessary depictions of cruelty to animals
- Gratuitous violence, cruelty, or horror
- No scenes encouraging alcohol consumption, drug addiction or smoking
- No vulgarity, obscenity, depravity, double entendres or scenes degrading women, including sexual violence (as much as possible)
- No denigration by race, religion or other social group
- No promotion of sectarian, obscurantist, anti-scientific and anti-national attitudes
- Relations with foreign countries should not be affected.
- No national symbols or emblems, except in accordance with the Emblems and Names (Prevention of Improper Use) Act, 1950 (12 of 1950)
Since 2004, censorship has been rigorously enforced. An incident was reported in which exhibitor staff – a clerk who sold the ticket, the usher who allowed minors to sit, a theater manager and the partners of the theater complex – were arrested for non-compliance with certification rules.
Composition and leadership
The board consists of a chairperson and 23 members, all of whom are appointed by the central government. Prasoon Joshi chairs the board; Joshi became its 28th chairperson on 11 August 2017, after Pahlaj Nihalani was fired. Nihalani had succeeded Leela Samson after Samson quit in protest of an appellate tribunal's overturning of a board decision to refuse certification for MSG: The Messenger. Samson had succeeded Sharmila Tagore.
The board, headquartered in Mumbai, has nine regional offices:
|1||C S Aggarwal||15 January 1951||14 June 1954|
|2||B D Mirchandani||15 June 1954||9 June 1955|
|3||M D Bhatt||10 June 1955||21 November 1959|
|4||D L Kothari||22 November 1959||24 March 1960|
|5||B D Mirchandani||25 March 1960||1 November 1960|
|6||D L Kothari||2 November 1960||22 April 1965|
|7||B P Bhatt||23 April 1965||22 April 1968|
|8||R P Nayak||31 April 1968||15 November 1969|
|9||M V Desai||12 December 1969||19 October 1970|
|10||Brig. R. Streenivasan||20 October 1970||15 November 1971|
|11||Virendra Vyas||11 February 1972||30 June 1976|
|12||K L Khandpur||1 July 1976||31 January 1981|
|13||Hrishikesh Mukherjee||1 February 1981||10 August 1982|
|14||Aparna Mohile||11 August 1982||14 March 1983|
|15||Sharad Upasani||15 March 1983||9 May 1983|
|16||Surresh Mathur||10 May 1983||7 July 1983|
|17||Vikram Singh||8 July 1983||19 February 1989|
|18||Moreshwar Vanmali||20 February 1989||25 April 1990|
|19||B P Singhal||25 April 1990||1 April 1991|
|20||Shakti Samanta||1 April 1991||25 June 1998|
|21||Asha Parekh||25 June 1998||25 September 2001|
|22||Vijay Anand||26 September 2001||19 July 2002|
|23||Arvind Trivedi||20 July 2002||16 October 2003|
|24||Anupam Kher||16 October 2003||13 October 2004|
|25||Sharmila Tagore||13 October 2004||31 March 2011|
|26||Leela Samson||1 April 2011||16 January 2015|
|27||Pahlaj Nihalani||19 January 2015||11 August 2017|
|28||Prasoon Joshi||12 August 2017||Present|
The board has been associated with a number of scandals. Film producers reportedly bribe the CBFC to obtain a U certificate, which entitles them to a 30-percent reduction in entertainment tax.
In 2002, War and Peace (a documentary film by Anand Patwardhan which depicted nuclear weapons testing and the September 11 attacks) was edited 21 times before the film was approved for release. According to Patwardhan, "The cuts that [the Board] asked for are so ridiculous that they won't hold up in court. But if these cuts do make it, it will be the end of freedom of expression in the Indian media." A court ruled that the cut requirement was unconstitutional, and the film was shown uncensored.
That year, Indian filmmaker and CBFC chair Vijay Anand proposed legalizing the exhibition of X-rated films in selected cinemas. Anand said, "Porn is shown everywhere in India clandestinely ... and the best way to fight this onslaught of blue movies is to show them openly in theatres with legally authorised licenses". Anand resigned less than a year after becoming chairperson in the wake of his proposal.
The board refused to certify Gulabi Aaina (a film about Indian transsexuals produced and directed by Sridhar Rangayan) in 2003; Rangayan unsuccessfully appealed the decision twice. Although the film is banned in India, it has been screened in the UK.
Final Solution, a 2004 documentary examining religious riots between Hindus and Muslims in Gujarat which killed over 1,000 people, was also banned. According to the board, the film was "highly provocative and may trigger off unrest and communal violence". After a sustained campaign, the ban was lifted in October of that year.
The CBFC demanded five cuts from the 2011 American film, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, because of nudity and rape scenes. The producers and the director, David Fincher, eventually decided not to release the film in India.
CEO Rakesh Kumar was arrested in August 2014 for accepting bribes to expedite the issuance of certificates. The board demanded four cuts (three visual and one audio) from the 2015 Malayalam film, Chaayam Poosiya Veedu) (directed by brothers Santosh Babusenan and Satish Babusenan), because of nude scenes. The directors refused to make the changes, and the film was not certified.
CBFC chair Leela Samson resigned in protest of political interference in the board's work in 2015 after its decision to refuse certification of the film, MSG: The Messenger, was overturned by an appellate tribunal. Samson was replaced by Pahlaj Nihalani, whose Bharatiya Janata Party affiliation triggered a wave of additional board resignations. The board was criticised for ordering the screen time of two kissing scenes in the James Bond film Spectre (2015) to be cut by half for release.
Udta Punjab (2016), co-produced by Anurag Kashyap and Ekta Kapoor, inspired a list of 94 cuts and 13 pointers (including an order to remove Punjabi city names). The film was approved for release with one cut and disclaimers by the Bombay High Court. A copy of the film was leaked online, with evidence indicating possible CBFC involvement. Kashyap posted on Facebook that although he did not object to free downloads, he hoped that viewers would pay for the film. In August 2017, days after his removal as CBFC chair, Nihalani said in an interview that he had received instructions from the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting to block the release of this film and at least one other.
Lipstick Under My Burkha (2017), directed by Alankrita Shrivastava and produced by Prakash Jha, was originally denied certification. The film, which had been screened at international film festivals, was eligible for the Golden Globe Awards. The filmmakers appealed to the board's Film Certification Appellate Tribunal (FCAT), which authorised its release. The FCAT requested some cuts (primarily to sex scenes), and the film was released with an A certificate. Shrivastava said, "Of course I would have loved no cuts, but the FCAT has been very fair and clear. I feel that we will be able to release the film without hampering the narrative or diluting its essence."
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