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'India needs a ratings authority, not a censor board'


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India needs a ratings authority rather than a censor board for its films as the media environment has changed dramatically with the advent of satellite and cable TV, speakers at an entertainment convention here agreed.

Representatives of the film industry at the Frames 2004 convention organised by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) shared experiences on how the film censor board had been inconsistent in its approach and had even tried to dictate how producers should edit their films.

"This is a sensitive issue as it has become fashionable for artists to say that they don't believe in censorship," said actor and filmmaker Rahul Bose.

He said he was shocked when a scene in his film "Mr and Mrs Iyer", in which a Muslim is asked to drop his pants to prove he is one, was allowed to be screened.

"But this country is still not socially, politically and culturally mature enough for even work which is not intended to be offensive to be distorted by someone. What we need is a graded, measured, thoughtful approach to rating movies," he said.

Amit Khanna, FICCI entertainment committee president, said there was a lot of misinformation about how the central board for film certification was appointed.

"I was nominated 10 or 15 years ago but declined. Anyone with a sense of self-respect would decline such an appointment. The government needs to review its systems and not have officials on the board with no sense of creativity. When Vijay Anand tried to change the way the censor board operated, he was asked to go," he said.

Director of films like "Chameli", Sudhir Mishra said filmmakers needed to form a body to protect their rights when they were in trouble, even those whose views one might not necessarily agree with.

"I would defend the playwright's right to articulate a view -- that is the idea of a mature democracy," he said.

"I was told that I was not allowed to say in my film what BBC and CNN say every day," he added.

Filmmaker Mahesh Bhatt explained his humiliation at his first film being rejected by the censors:

"When I was 21, making my first film, it was the most humiliating experience to be called in by the censors to be told: 'We don't find you worthy'.

"Thirty years later, I made the film 'Zakhm', focusing on communal carnage. The same people who fought against the Emergency in the 1970's and now in the citadel of power stalled my film. I said I would burn the film.

"The moment you stare into their eyes unblinkingly, something is destroyed in them. I got the film passed, but at great economic cost. Also, I had to change the saffron bands of those burning the Babri Masjid to grey!" he said.

"My film got, ironically, the National Film Award for being the best film promoting national integration. In a way it was poetic justice," he added.

"Let's unshackle and unleash cinema. You can't hold on to your medieval way of thinking and still say you want to move into the 21st century. If you kiss a woman on the street, you get an A certificate, but if you kill a woman on the street, you get a U certificate!" Bhatt said in an impassioned speech.

Veteran filmmaker Ramesh Sippy explained how censors had even suggested a different ending to his classic movie "Sholay" but, in a turnabout a decade later, had approved a six-frame sequence of Dimple Kapadia slightly exposing in the film "Saagar" when he had wanted to include only a three-frame scene.

"We need a certain kind of body that provides guidelines on ratings. They have to be objective people. In any event, audiences will reject vulgarity and violence," he said.


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