There is defined censorship, and there is irrational censorship. The battle between certification and censorship in India has been an ongoing one. Braver and bolder films don't necessarily see the light of the day.
Some say censorship in India is based on an age-old idea that citizens are not mature and that subjects of such nature tend to influence the society. The Indian government hasn't entirely managed to dealing with the situation by appointing commissions to review the process of censorship.
In 2013, the Mukul Mudgal Committee Report was found inadequate and faded with time. In 2016, Shyam Benegal Committee was formed to review the processes involved. Given the fact that eminent film personalities were on board, there was hope that the issues would be dealt with the seriousness it deserved.
Overall summary of the report suggested that henceforth the focus will be on certification and not censorship; that the numbers of members of the CBFC will be reduced from 25 to 9 and that the categories of certification will be increased by two — one for minors and one for adults.
In perspective, the reduction in membership and the increase in categories has hardly done anything to curb the censorious attitude of the CBFC.
In essence, the CBFC will no longer have the power to suggest cuts. Unfortunately, what it gives it away is the fact that CBFC holds the right to refuse certification to a film which violates section 5B(1) of the Act, it states: “A film shall not be certified for public exhibition if, in the opinion of the authority competent to grant the certificate, the film or any part of it is against the interests of the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security of the State, friendly relations with foreign States, public order, decency or morality, or involves defamation or contempt of court or is likely to incite the commission of any offence.”
So now, even if a minor scene falls under section 5(B)1, CBFC holds the right to refuse certification to a film.
Even though we pride ourselves in calling India the largest democracy - is India offering democracy and freedom or is it an illusion? Here's a look at some of the acclaimed movies/documentaries that were banned in India:
1994 - Bandit Queen
Banned for: Abusive language, nudity, and explicit sexual content
Banned for: Explicit homosexuality
Banned for: Erotic scenes that contained heterosexual as well as homosexual elements
Banned for: Transsexuality
Banned for: Sensitivity of the political situation showcase
Banned for: Showcasing a war in Pakistan, with the story of two brothers fighting for Kashmir
Banned for: Showcasing dark insights on the life of the Indian widow based on controversial issues like ostracism and misogyny
Banned for: Lesbian love story entangled within an angle showcasing Islamic terrorism
Banned for: Showcasing commercialisation of the pilgrimage city - Varanasi
Banned for: Depicting Hinduism, Indian culture, and traditions in a negative light
Banned for: Showcasing perceived anti-Christian message
Banned for: Adult scenes of rape and torture
Banned for: Smoking scenes not tagged with anti-tobacco adverts
Banned for: Explicit sex scenes
Banned for: Showcasing male stripping
Banned for: Obscene showcase of a 70-year-old man
Banned for: Showcasing sovereignty of Sikkim
Banned for: Violence showcasing 2002 Gujarat pogrom in which both Hindu and Muslims are targeted in the state of Gujarat by political extremists
Banned for: Feared portrayal of superstition, obscurantism, invoke contempt for communities or evoke Hindu-Muslim divisiveness
Banned for: Showcasing insurgencies and militancy in the Kashmir Valley
Banned for: Showcasing investigative documentary on the 2013 Muzaffarnagar Riots
Banned for: Showcasing investigative content about the final weeks of the Sri Lankan Civil War
Banned for: Showcasing gang rape and murder of a 23-year-old medical student in 2012 and projecting India in bad light
Last but not the least - even though the censors try to control the content, they won't be able to monitor public culture and media space in the age of digital technology. Can it?
Should we continue to persist with their censorious ways? Please share your opinions in the comments section below.