When a person stops someone else from seeing some content, it can never be an objective decision. There are always the blocker’s own perceptions, morality, and biases involved. Sometimes, external factors such as cultural consideration, societal standards and ‘protection’ of the masses comes into play too. This can be understandable when children are involved; of course, they are too young to understand or be exposed to certain kinds of elements.
But do adults really need this kind of spoon-feeding?
Internal problems aside, almost every Indian cinematic industry comes together to express their disgruntlement regarding the Central Board of Film Certification, or Censor Board as it is popularly called. To censor content in itself is an archaic concept. If you are an adult paying for entertainment, you can surely choose what you want to watch, even if it is considered by some to be sensitive or offensive. But clearly, the CBFC does not believe that the adult Indian population is capable of making such choices. Perhaps that is why every marginally alarming movie has to face a flurry of cuts.
These cuts range from reducing the length of kissing scenes and banning stars from smoking and drinking in movies to more controversial choices such as banning an entire movie for being ‘female-oriented’ or demanding fourteen cuts from a movie based on the Emergency.
The most ironical thing about this whole censorship process can be easily seen in the final products that industries release.
Movies glorifying sexism, crass violence, and using erotic content for profit and literally baseless storylines often pass the mark, but god forbids someone sees the way women actually live in the country. Then there is the question of erasing out actual reality from movies. How can the Emergency be talked about without the political figures involved? And just because you don’t want to think about it because it makes you uncomfortable, does not mean that women don’t have sexual desires.
This childish treatment is not just offensive for the Indian population; it is also a dark cloud hovering over the development of the cinematic industry in India.
Entertainment and movies are at the end of the day a for profit business. If producers know that any harder movie will in the end be caught up in tussles with the censor board, why would they invest in it? They might as well just make a silly movie with a song and dance number and be done with it. There are many reasons why movies like Indu Sarkar, Udta Punjab, Lipstick Under My Burkha and Margarita With A Straw don’t come around often, and the Censor Board is perhaps the biggest of them all.
And as stated, it erases realities from movies. The world is rife with examples of when movies that were considered controversial ended up making a change. The Crucible (internationally released as The Silence) was a 2011 South Korean movie dealing with sexual abuse of hearing-impaired kids at school. The movie reignited conversation and protests over the lenient punishments given to the real-life culprits, and ended up creating a change in the national law.
Wind River, the 2017 murder-mystery movie claimed to be based on a true story – that of countless women sexually assaulted in native reservation in USA. The movie ended with a title card stating that missing person records are not kept for only one group, Native American women.
Both of these movies dealt with delicate topics, and even the smallest of cuts could have taken away from their impact. We often disconnect movies as glamorous alternative worlds that have no links with reality; but the truth is that movies often try to tell us of the world around us, of the dark underbelly of it that we often choose to ignore.
That is not to say of course, that all movies, despite their contents, should be open to everyone. But the board can merely do what the rest of the world does- classify films, let them run uncut, and let the audience decide. To give anything less is to demean the Indian audience.
By Niharika Rawat