Saturday, March 2, 2024

On cinema, censorship and film making in N-E

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SHILLONG: Prof Bhubon Lahkar, an alumni of the Film Appreciation course in the FTII (Film And Television Institute of India) Pune, now a senior advisor, Guwahati Cine Association and film critic spoke to The Shillong Times about film censorship and what goes into the decision to censor parts of a film.
Narrating his experiences as a student of FTII, he said, “The lecturer would show clippings of Western movies which were sent to India for commercial exhibition and which were prohibited for viewing by the film censor board. We found the classes very interesting and we were tempted to see the rejected clippings.”
Lahkar said that for the most part it was naked physical display of love and affection of western movies that seemed to be at complete variance with the cultural ethos of India which the censor board found offensive. However, he says that it would be wrong to view the censor board as armed sentinels with a pair of scissors out to censor only sex and violence in the movies.
The Censor Board has the responsibility to carefully observe that a film or any part of it does not inflame communal passions and hatred amongst different ethnic, linguistic or religious groups in the country. The Board is also vigilant against any product in the movie which may jeopardize India’s relations with any foreign country. Several such technical factors are what concern a film censor board.
“While in FTII I also read several books on the subject of film censorship. One that I remember vividly is Kabita Sarkar’s, You can’t satisfy everyone. Many a director has a nexus with branded liquor producers (IMFL) and tobacco houses and projects a welcoming glass of wine or cigarette in the hand of an artiste in (BCU) Big Close up or CU (close up). Obviously the brand name of the cigarette with the company logo is clearly visible. At times the branded bottle of IMFL is placed strategically so that the brand name is clearly readable.
“When a reel hero with a larger than life image consumes a branded liquor or smokes, the common cine-goer want to mimic him and satisfies himself by drinking or smoking that specific brand of product. In the process of film viewing a passive desire is created in the minds of the audience to consume such brands and to behave and become like the hero. Hence such DESIRE CREATING BRANDS commercialized in the film is banned by the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC).”
The Censor Board, however, has to move with the times. What was forbidden yesterday is kosher today. The social transformation in Indian society, especially in the urban context and impact of globalization on the worldview of the masses has prompted the Board to relax some of the norms. Censorship is not a tight-rope against a liberal and youthful India. But it depends on the product supplied by the directors and producers to the board for examination. CBFC has its own specific norms and it is governed by such laws.
The Cinematographic Act 1952/Act No 37 OF 1952 and the cinematograph A (Certification)Rules 1983 as amended since July 2007 is open to all citizens of India and the director/ producer may follow the same in producing the film.
Clarifying about the role of CBFC, Prof Lahkar said it is a national organization and has no bias towards regional cinema. “Regional cinema can be projected nationwide. Hence censor treatment also will be by the same yardstick. Regional films cleared for public viewing must be certified by the CBFC. If a regional film is publicly and commercial exhibited without obtaining CBFC certificates, then it is regarded as illegal. Such practice is punishable by law,” Prof Lahkar stated.
Recently Prof Lahkar had a special viewing of the Khasi movie titled Ri – Homeland Of Uncertainty directed by Pradip Kurbah. The film has been duly certified by CBFC. “The camera work of the film is superb and both the director and cinematographer of Ri are well versed in film grammar. The story of the film is realistic and while treating it through the lenses of camera, emotion was barred. It is a great experience to watch Ri. I hope Ri will clinch prizes in regional and International competitive film festivals,” Prof Lahkar observed.
Speaking of picturesque Meghalaya, Prof Lahkar said, “Rich folk cultural background and heritage with eye catching locations across Meghalaya can be explored by Khasi and Jaintia film makers/ directors of Meghalaya. This will indirectly promote tourism in this beautiful state of North East India.”

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