Banning a film on what grounds? Is the CBFC clearance not enough?

T. P. Aggarwal
Publisher/MANAGING Editor
The fate of Santa Banta Pvt Ltd, which has been banned in Punjab and discontinued at several theatres in Mumbai and Delhi, following protests by the Sikh community, has sent one message loud and clear to filmmakers-that the CBFC clearance of a film is not fool-proof and does not assure a filmmaker of an uninterrupted release of his film at cinema houses. A month ago the Delhi High Court had directed the CBFC to treat the petition against the film about its allegedly objectionable references to the Sikh community, as a representation and reconsider the U/A given to it earlier. The directive was given after the CBFC representation, which claimed that it had found nothing offensive against the Sikh community in the movie and had certified it only after considering all aspects. Ideally since the clearance of a film is entirely in the purview of the CBFC, it is implied that every film cleared by the Film Certification Board, should have a free and fair release at exhibition outlets.

Unfortunately that does not happen in our country. There have been several cases of movies in the recent past where films despite being cleared by CBFC, have been subjected to attack by fringe elements, who have raised objections for various reasons. The most recent one was that of Aligarh, which was stalled in the city of Aligarh, apparently because it tarnished the image of the city. Whether it was Aligarh, Dilwale, Bajirao Mastani, Vishwaroopam or Santa Banta and umpteen other films, isn’t it the responsibility of the Government to ensure that there are no hurdles in the release of a film once it is cleared by CBFC? What about the law and order enforcement agencies?
Having said that, filmmakers in India now have to be extra careful when it comes to taking cinematic liberties about depicting characters of a particular tribe, one religion, anything pertaining to religion or distortion of facts if the film claims to be biopic. It will not be wrong to say that filmmakers have to go through two acid tests- the one set by CBFC which chops off scenes according to its own discretion and then the bigger test of fringe elements with vested interests who try to gain mileage out of anything and everything.
With so many limitations around and writers already complaining about a saturation of ideas, filmmakers will be left with little options other than making silly films, which have nothing to offer. Ideally such films go unnoticed but sometimes even such films meet with opposition, which is the case with the latest release.


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