The question is plain simple. What purpose does a regulatory body serve if it fails to see to it that the regulations imposed on an individual or entity are never put into practice?The Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) (often referred to as the Censor Board) is a statutory censorship and classification body under the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Government of India. It is tasked with “regulating the public exhibition of films under the provisions of the Cinematograph Act 1952”. Films can be publicly exhibited in India only after they are certified by the Board, including films shown on television. CBFC India is considered to be one of the most powerful film censor boards in the world due to its strict ways of functioning.
Films are certified under 4 categories. Initially, there were only two categories of certificates – “U” (unrestricted public exhibition) and “A” (restricted to adult audiences). Two more categories were added in June 1983 – “U/A” (unrestricted public exhibition subject to parental guidance for children below the age of twelve) and “S” (restricted to specialized audiences such as doctors or scientists).
The Censor Board has often been in the news for the rigid stands that it has adopted when it comes to film certification. There have been instances galore when films have been denied certification (Jayan Cherian’s ‘Ka Bodyscapes’ being the latest example) and where excessive cuts have been demanded (Udta Punjab, 2016) for a certificate to be issued.
The mandatory warnings on alcohol and tobacco use that accompany scenes that depict them have evoked much discussion. The CGI labels that appear on scenes have also raised questions as to how far these serve any purpose other than to impede the genuine enjoyment of cinema.
The real question however is to what extent the CBFC certificates are seen as significant by the film audience. I was at a 6 30 show of Jayaraj’s ‘Veeram’ the other day, that has been granted an Adults Only Certificate and half the audience comprised of young kids. The parents seemed to be neither aware of the certificate, and even if they did, they simply did not seem to care!
A booking at a site as BookMyShow warns the user that the film has an ‘A’ certification, and that it is compulsory to carry an age verification document, in case it is demanded. No such substantiation is demanded at the cinema halls, and the Certificate merely remains a document to be brandished at the beginning of every screening. Most of the film posters do not flash an ‘Adults Only’ sign either.
What is the purpose of a Censor Board if all they are expected to do is to decide what the rest of the country should watch? Has there ever been any attempt on the part of the Board to see if the issued Certificates are deemed worthy by the target audience? And if not, have any measures been taken whatsoever to make an entire population understand that the Board means business?