Filmmakers feel the heat from bodies with political agenda

MUMBAI: ‘Is Media & Entertainment Socially Responsible?’ that was the hot topic of debate on the second day of FICCI FRAMES, which is being held in Mumbai.

The consensus amongst the panelists comprising actor and Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) chairperson Sharmila Tagore, film makers Shyam Benegal and Mahesh Bhatt and FICCI Convergence Committee chairman and Reliance Entertainment president Amit Khanna was that filmmakers today felt a marked threat from inconspicuous political bodies, who create a ruckus to stall the release of a film.

The views expressed by the panel were that cinema has become a tool for organizations to foist their political agenda on the nation. A need is being felt for a cultural renaissance, for if an entertainer is denied freedom of expression, creative freedom is lost. Most creative artistes have empathy and are socially responsible.

Tagore admitted that CBFC does censor a bit whenever necessary to safeguard public interest. “But we are a transparent body. Under the Right to Information (RTI) Act, you can write to us and find out exactly why the Board has acted in a particular manner while certifying a film for public screening.”

While the CBFC’s intent is not to sit in judgement on the creativity of a filmmaker, the Board needs to look at the impact a film will make on the Indian public, which is multi-lingual, pluralistic with different sensibilities of metro, semi-urban and rural audiences, Tagore said.

 “We are not ready as yet for self regulation. While the primary objective of cinema is to entertain we have to closely see the costs involved. Social values and economics must go hand in hand,” she opined.

Benegal added that censorship today has taken a political colour as even after a film is certified by the Censor Board; it is being blocked by organizations in various states on ridiculous grounds. He said much of the onus for the flare up against films lies with the TV networks whose cameramen make a few protestors seem like many. Some of the examples that were cited were those of Aaja Nach Le, Jodhaa Akbar and Zakhm.

"In all these years of filmmaking, I have never thought twice about what I am making. I just go by my belief in the subject. However, lately, I feel constrained to use every word in a film and have to go over it with a toothcomb because I don’t know what dialogue may hurt which segment of the society and in turn harm my film’s release," Benegal said.

Filmmaker Mahesh Bhatt strongly believes that the problem of film certification has now shifted from CBFC to the society outside. “While it is the responsibility of the state machinery to ensure law and order, their helplessness in the matter is pathetic,” he stated.

"While the Censor Board has changed with the changing times, the problem is with the society outside as everyone wants to piggy-back ride on the entertainer. The makers have to realise that when they make something different and opinionated, they have to be prepared for rough times ahead," Bhatt said.

Khanna expressed anguish at the sheer tenacity with which political leadership has hung on to controls over the media. He alluded to different laws on investment to regulation in telecom, broadcasting and TV that has made the situation totally chaotic. “The media has a great responsibility as it will ultimately change the way we are governed and who we are governed by,” he voiced.

Ministry of Information and Broadcasting joint secretary Zohra Chatterji said the government was trying to put together a content code for the media and broadcasting industry even as the media needs to exercise social responsibility and do research on customer preferences and not be guided by just TRP ratings.

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