Leela Samson, chairperson of the Indian Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC), agrees that the Central government regulations on depiction of smoking scenes and use of performing animals curtailed the artistic freedom of film-makers.
She commented at a press conference was held to brief journalists about the Ministry of Health's requirement that the legend that smoking is injurious to health be scrolled on screen every time a smoking scene was shown.
Samson argued that films that depicted smoking scenes should display the statutory warning at the beginning and the end of the film. The requirement of scrolling the warning whenever a smoking scene occurred was unnecessary. Currently, films with a
smoking scene were being classified as UV (for parental caution for those aged below 12).
However she didn't seem to mention the curtailment of artistic freedom caused by her own censor board, who routinely cut anything remotely sexy or that may offend even the most easily offended.
The London Indian film festival is showcasing controversial new movies that are winning international acclaim but offending the establishment by exposing hypocrisies at home.
The festival opened on Wednesday with Gangs of Wasseypur , a two-part epic about criminal dynasties who control a mining town in the lawless state of Jharkand. With its raw potrayal of a reality that never appears in the glossy utopia of
Bollywood, it heralds a movement towards exposing the hypocrisies of Indian society about sex, drugs, development and injustice.
The film has the audacity to reflect the folk bawdiness of Indian life, with song lyrics that have been translated as: You'll know my name when I fuck you dry ... Ain't I nice, I just fucked you twice. You can almost taste the salt as the sweaty
lovers frolic to the score.
Also showing at the London festival is Gandu (variously translated as Arsehole, Wanker and Loser ), a thrash-metal rap musical about a young dopehead and his lust for fame and sex that, despite being banned in India, has become one
of the country's most talked about films, with its explicit opium smoking, foul language and masturbation.
The confusion of a society in thrall to its own ancient morals while increasingly experiencing the wider world is acutely captured in Gandu, whose eponymous hero is an angst-ridden skinhead who yearns to rap with Asian Dub Foundation while loafing and
getting high on the streets of Calcutta. Shot in black and white, it features a kung-fu-kicking rickshaw-wallah sidekick and an explicit blowjob scene performed by the director's girlfriend, followed by her squatting brazenly on the young man's face. The
movie is a surreal Bengali mix of Jim Jarmusch kookiness and the raw sexuality of Nagisa Oshima, and is absolutely nothing like any Indian film I've ever seen. Gandu Gandu, a thrash-rap musical. was banned in India.
Leaked on the internet, Gandu has been downloaded more than a million times and hawkers openly sell the DVDs. It is now getting government exemptions to be shown on the Indian festival circuit and has opened a serious debate on censorship.
An arrest warrant has been issued for author Salam Azad, whose 2003 novel contains supposedly insulting remarks about the religious character Mohammed.
A court in Dhaka issued the order in response to a petition from a Muslim activist accusing author Salam Azad of hurting religious sentiment in his banned book Bhanga Math (Broken Temple).
Azad told AFP the case was part of a smear campaign against him launched by a senior official from the ruling Awami League party: I became his target after I protested his grabbing of Hindu property. He has already filed a case against me .
Azad said the book, published in the eastern Indian city of Kolkata, was banned for blasphemy by the Bangladeshi government in 2004.
About 382 movies were broadcast by 38 different channels without displaying the mandatory certificate from the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) in the month of January 2012.
This has upset the Information and Broadcasting (I&B) Ministry which has now asked the Indian Broadcasting Federation (IBF) to ensure that all channels display the censor certificates while telecasting films and ensure that rules are followed.
According to the official sources, the Electronic Media Monitoring Cell (EMMC) of the ministry had in a report pointed out the non-display of these mandatory certificates by TV channels on 382 occasions.
Officials said that the ministry had reasons to be annoyed that the practice of sidestepping censorship law had become widespread. Sources said that not just the private players, but even the national broadcaster Doordarshan in January this year
had telecast a movie without displaying the CBFC certificate.
The recently released Kannada film Katari Veera Surasundarangi featured in a High Court case trying to get the film banned.
The petitioners, Nagarajun Naidu and others, have contended that the film (released on May 10) has several objectionable scenes and dialogues against Hindu gods. The film has hurt the feelings of many Hindus in general, they added.
They claimed that many scenes depict the hero Upendra hurting the religious sentiments of Hindus and sought for a direction from the court to stop its screening across the state.
They petitioners pointed out that statewide protests were held against the screening of the movie. Several pro-Hindu organisations have condemned the censor board for allowing the screening of the film.
Pakistan's government blocked the popular social networking website Twitter after material considered 'offensive' to Islam was posted on
Mohammed Yaseen, the head of Pakistan's telecommunications body, said Twitter refused to remove material referring to a group on Facebook in which users post images of the religious character Muhammed.
The ban was lifted eight hours later. Interior Minister Rehman Malik wrote on Twitter itself to reveal that prime minister Yusuf Raza Gilani had lifted the ban. Malik tweeted:
I spoke to PM and informed how people are feeling about it. PM ordered to reopen the Twitter.
Husain Haqqani, the previous Pakistani ambassador to the UN, wrote on the website:
Ban on any form of free expression has no place in a democracy. If some1 offends, bar offender instead of banning medium.
Pakistan once again blocked access to Twitter over the weekend because of concerns over blasphemy. Apparently the block related to the Draw Mohammed Day Facebook page, this time apparently because people were tweeting about it.
Two years ago, Pakistan blocked access to Facebook, Twitter and other sites after a competition page was created calling on users to draw the religious character Mohammed. A year later, there was another short-lived block on the anniversary of the
Thousands of users went online to protest what they saw as a pointless and ineffective ban that actually drew attention to what it was supposed to block.
The Delhi Court has found blogger Jitender Bagga's blogs against Art of Living leader Sri Sri Ravi Shankar to be defamatory and has
ordered Google to take them down. Google complied with the order.
The complaint against the blogger is for content posted on his blog hosted on Blogpost (owned by Google) at revolutionprithvi.blogspot.in and srisriravishankarisguruorconman.blogspot.in. The directive by the High Court seemed to be another harsh
ruling biased against the Internet and freedom of speech. However, if one looks at the websites listed in the complaint and the content, it does appear that Jitender Bagga was vindictive and has an axe to grind. Voicing ones opinion as form of art
or literature is one thing, going hammer and tongs against someone in a malicious and resentful attack, is something completely different.
A popular film called The Dirty Picture was released in India with an A (18) certificate. It was massively cut by the film censors for a UA (PG) rating so that it could be shown on TV in daytime. However it seems that it was cut enough for
the moralists and the daytime showing caused a bit of a stink in India.
Now sources from the Information & Broadcasting Ministry say that a decision has been taken to prevent all films with an A (adult) or a UA (parental guidance) certificate to be screened during daytime. A source said:
At a high-level meeting recently in the I & B Ministry it was decided that only films certified for universal exhibition would be screened during daytime on television. Films that are certified A or UA can only be screened post 11 pm.
But the TV and film industry are not happy. An industry explained that producers nowadays sell satellite rights of their films for huge amounts of money. A major part of a film's revenue comes from the television premiere. If the screening-time of
films with an A and UA certificate on television is restricted to post 11 pm, satellite revenue would be accordingly reduced since the viewership would be seriously dented.
Many interested parties are now keenly waiting an official statement from the ministry.
The government is all set to introduce a separate rating system for films being telecast on private TV networks. The decision on the new rating system, which will co-exist with the one for films released in theatres, was taken after a meeting
between officials of the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) and the information and broadcasting ministry.
Sources said CBFC chairperson Leela Samson has given in-principle approval for the idea, and a detailed set of guidelines will be framed soon.
Tense television broadcasters can breathe a sigh of relief. It seems the proposal to not screen Adults films on television may not be
implemented at all. According to sources, there was a serious proposal to completely ban Adult films from television and thereby do away with the procedure of re-certification for television.
Television broadcasters went into a panic mode. A hush-hush high-level meeting between CBFC members and television broadcasters was called and the heated discussion lasted till late in the night.
The outcome, however, was in favour of the broadcasters. According to very reliable sources, the proposal to ban A films completely from satellite television has been revoked. Instead some very censorial guidelines regarding the telecast of
A films on television are likely to be laid down.
The source said: The procedure of re-censoring 'A' films for television is likely to continue. However even when films are passed with a 'UA' certificate strigent rules would have to be applied. These include prominent scrolls declaring the
relevance and full significance of the 'UA' certificate and warnings about cigarette smoking being injurious to health.
The CBFC, it is reliably learnt, would make its recommendations to the I&B ministry that the UA certification for the television broadcast of feature films be allowed to continue. But with several new additional censorship rules.
A row over a cartoon showing Dalit icon BR Ambedkar in a school textbook has disrupted India's
Opposition MPs said the cartoon was disrespectful to Ambedkar and forced several adjournments of both houses of parliament on Friday. Education Minister Kapil Sibal later said the cartoon would be removed.
It shows former PM Jawaharlal Nehru holding a whip while standing behind Ambedkar, who sits on a snail, to speed up work on drafting the constitution. The cartoon, by iconic Indian illustrator Shankar Pillai, first appeared in his magazine,
Shankar's Weekly, in 1949.
BR Ambedkar, a contemporary of Mahatma Gandhi, authored and shaped the constitution for independent India.
Dalit politician and member of the Rajya Sabha [upper house] Mayawati told reporters:
This is an insult on Indian democracy. The government should intervene and take strong action against those who are involved in this.
If it fails to do so, we will wait for two to three days or else our party will not allow the House to run, she said.
The Sri Lankan government is to appoint a censor for teledramas shown on private and state television, the Media
Media Ministry Secretary W. B. Ganegala told The Sunday Leader that the cabinet has already decided that a script of the teledrama should be passed by the Censor Board, before the teledrama is produced. He said that this is to ensure there are no
racial comments made or foul language used.
In future the Media Ministry is considering censoring visuals in teledramas as well, Ganegala further added.
Meanwhile the Media Ministry is to also reduce the number of episodes on mega teledramas shown on state television. Ganegala said that mege teledramas will be reduced to a maximum of 100 episodes as some run well over 200 episodes
and as a result new teledramas are not produced. He said that a teledrama director or producer will in future have to wait six months to produce a new teledrama on state television.
The Media Ministry will also carry out research on teledramas that are being produced for local television to see if they meet government requirements.
Reporters Without Borders has welcomed the ruling that the high court of the southeastern province of Sindh issued in response to a joint petition on 17 April by Bolo Bhi, a Pakistani civil rights group, and other human rights activists in a bid to stop
illegal website censorship by the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA).
According to a Bolo Bhi press release, the petition asked the court to ensure that no website was blocked, censored or restricted in violation of Pakistan's Constitution.
After examining the petition, the high court served notice on the federal government and ordered the PTA not to block any website except in accordance with the provisions of the Pakistan Telecommunication Act of 1996. This law regulates the PTA's control
of telecommunications networks and requires, inter alia, that this control be exercised in a fair and transparent manner.
The high court's ruling, if respected, would make it impossible for the government to introduce any nationwide website filtering system.
The last-minute cancellation of the TV broadcast of Milan Luthria's The Dirty Picture on Sunday afternoon has thrown open a heated discussion within the Central Board Of Film Censorship (CBFC) as to how Adults Only films can be cut for
general TV viewing.
A source from the censor board said:
The experience with The Dirty Picture's deferred telecast proves that simply ordering extra cuts in an 'Adults' film is not enough when the very theme is adult.
Those members of the censor board who had viewed The Dirty Picture to certify it for satellite and television screening ordered 52 cuts. But those 52 cuts amounted to no more than 7 minutes of additional cuts. [These were sufficient for the CBFC to award
a U/A certificate, previously sufficient for a TV airing].
On Thursday when the Information & Broadcasting ministry reacted to legal proceedings in UP courts against the scheduled telecast of The Dirty Picture on Sunday afternoon at a time when optimum kids and youngsters were glued to the IPL matches, two
senior members of the censor board re-viewed the film and found that the content needed further toning down before telecast.
However, at this late stage the film's producers Balaji refused to comply. Censor certificate for telecast in hand, Sony Entertainment confidently marched towards a massive eyeball-grabbing telecast on Sunday afternoon and evening.
Apparently, the telecast was stopped minutes before the schedule playing time at 12 noon on the direct intervention of the I & B Ministry.
And now highly-placed sources in the censor board tell us that the whole The Dirty Picture experience would compel the CBFC to revise its policy regarding Adult feature films.
Pankaja Thakur the CEO of the CBFC said that a change in policy regarding the censorship of Adult films for telecast is around the corner:
In view of the court cases and the programme code that has to be followed by all TV programmes including feature films, CBFC would be forced to look at the whole process of cutting adult films to make it palatable for young viewing.
A petition has been filed in the Madras High Court seeking direction to the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) not to certify films with scenes depicting Hindu sanyasis and spiritual leaders in bad taste and insulting or abusing them.
In its petition, the Hindu Dharma Sakthi also sought a direction to Tamil Film Producers Council and the director of the Tamil film Ok Ok - Oru Kal Oru Kannadi to remove scenes in the movie which supposedly hurt Hindu religious sentiments.
N Devasenathypathy representing Sakthi said in the trailer of the film, which he had seen, the manner in which a seer's character had been created was highly unnecessary. The character was totally disconnected to the movie's main theme, he alleged. The
creation of the character was with a mala fide intention to hurt Hindu religious feelings, he claimed.
In a counter affidavit, CBFC Regional Officer V Packirisamy said the board judged a film in its entirety as per the Cinematograph Act and the Centre's guidelines. The contentious scene in the film in no way denigrated or defamed Hinduism. A committee had
carefully examined the film and issued the certificate.
Noting that the board had not passed any scene which would hurt religious sentiments, the CBFC said it was not right to comment on the film without seeing it fully.
The High Court has dismissed a writ petition by a Hindu organisation seeking to force the film censors at the CBFC to ban any feature film having scenes negatively depicting Hindu religious leaders and spiritual gurus. The petitioner had also asked for a
ban of scenes in Ok Ok- Oru Kal Oru Kannadi which supposedly hurt the religious sentiments of Hindus.
In his order, Justice Vinod K. Sharma said that it was not understood how a comic consequence interfered with the freedom of conscience, free profession, practice and propagation of religion to attract the provision.
The Judge said that the film had been certified for universal exhibition. The petitioner, therefore, had the remedy of appeal. The allegations in the petition were vague. Also, in view of the law laid down by the Supreme Court, no order as requested
could be issued in the petitioner's favour after the film had been certified for exhibition.
Calcutta high court has upheld the censoring of bare-back posters of Paoli Dam in the Vikram Bhatt film Hate Story .
Justice Dipankar Dutta refused to stay the order issued by West Bengal Board of Censorship on Jalan Distributors, the film's distributor. The state censor board had served a notice on the distributor, asking it to display the controversial poster only
after the actor's back was painted blue as if wearing a shirt.
Jalan Distributors has petitioned the high court to allow the original poster arguing that since the central censor board had already issued an U/A certificate for the film, a state censor board has no right to interfere with display of the film's
It was argued that no other state in the country had imposed any restriction on display of the film's posters. It was only the West Bengal Censor Board that imposed such a restriction, hindering business from the film.
The state censor board argued against allowing the bare-back poster to be displayed as it would have a bad impact on children.
After hearing both sides, the court refused to stay the state censor board's order.
India's Information and Broadcasting Ministry is all geared up to expand film censorship classifications.
U [Universal] , A [Adult] and U/A [Children must be accompanied by an adult] will continue to exist. A+ [indicating excessive gore, violence or sleaze], 12+ and 15+ are set to be introduced.
The proposed changes amending the Cinematograph Act will be implemented by October 2012.
Film censors of the CBFC said the need for devising new categories was felt as the film industry pressed for classification along international lines.
Author Jaishree Misra, who has worked as a film classifier at the British Board of Film Classification in London, thinks it's an extremely positive step to have a more refined system than the one India has had so far:
The pressure has been growing (both from filmmakers and society) to move from less censorship to more classification. Consequently, parents rely more and more on the system to guide them and so the more 'signals' they get from the symbols, the better it
is. The film industry can only benefit when audiences trust them not to have harmful content in their films and their regulatory system is the best way to achieve this.