The Cinematograph (Amendment) Bill 2021 is a proposed amendment to present day censorship laws, whereby the Government seeks to side-step the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC), so it can re-examine film certifications in case of complaints against them. It can also review films after they have been passed by the CBFC. The Govt. released the draft bill on 18th June. The general public can submit comments by July 2nd.
Terms of the Proposed Bill
The amendment would give the Centre the power to be a “super censor”. According to the Bill, The Centre will have the power to order the CBFC to review permissions given to films, if it feels the content is “against the interests of the sovereignty and integrity of India, friendly relations with foreign states, public order, decency or morality, or is likely to incite the commission of any offence.” If the Govt. is under the impression that the above terms for guidance in certifying films (under Section 5B of the Bill) has been violated, it can order the CBFC to cancel or modify the certification given to films. Currently the Centre does not have the power to reverse decisions of the CBFC.
Additionally, the Bill proposes to provide certificates on the basis of age. The new proposal has asked to divide films on the basis of age, with U/A for 7+, U/A for 13+ and U/A certificate for 16+.
Film Community on the Issue
Many known figures from the Film community have criticised the Bill on social media. Kamal Hassan, tweeted about how people should speak up as creative freedom is under threat from such a bill.
Cinema, media and the literati cannot afford to be the three iconic monkeys of India. Seeing, hearing and speaking of impending evil is the only medication against attempts to injure and debilitate democracy. (1/2)
— Kamal Haasan (@ikamalhaasan) June 28, 2021
Award winning Tamil director Vetri Maaran also talked about how the Bill will be a tool to create only one narrative in films: a pro-government one. The rise of films with nationalistic, pro-BJP narratives in the past few years, point to this as well.
“If I have 10,000 people ready to do what I ask them to do then I can influence the outcome of any film. I can have protests, file complaints, go to court. With this new bill, both the filmmaker’s freedom and the film’s revenue are going to be affected. Already the governing body has so much power over creative expression. With this kind of a law, there is only going to be one narrative a pro-government one. You can either be a pro-government filmmaker or not speak at all.” – Vetri Maaran on the Bill.
Filmmakers Zoya Akhtar, Neeraj Ghaywan, Dibakar Banerjee, Anamika Haksar, Farhan Akhtar, Anurag Kashyap, actors Shabana Azmi and Rohini Hattangadi are among the signatories, in an appeal made to the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, stating that the move will give the Centre, “supreme power over cinema exhibition”, and could endanger freedom of expression.