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Shyam Benegal, Farhan, Pahlaj Nihalani React to Cinematograph Act Draft

Several filmmakers including Dibakar Banerjee and Vishal Bhardwaj are against the proposed Cinematograph Act draft,

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3 min read
<div class="paragraphs"><p>Farhan Akhtar, Shyam Benegal, Pahlaj Nihalani</p></div>
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The proposed amendments to the Cinematograph Act, 1952 have irked several people from the industry. The new draft proposed will grant revisionary powers to the Centre to re-examine films already approved by the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC). The Centre will also have the power to reverse the Board's decision.

Actor Farhan Akhtar, filmmakers Shyam Benegal, Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra, Vishal Bhardwaj, and former CBFC Chairman Pahlaj Nihalani have spoken up against the proposed Cinematograph Act 2021.

Recently, several filmmakers, actors, and writers sent an open letter to the Industry of Information and Broadcasting, urging the Centre to revoke the amendments. Filmmakers Anurag Kashyap, Dibakar Banerjee, Neeraj Ghaywan, and actors Farhan Akhtar, Shabana Azmi were among the signatories.

Speaking about the draft, Farhan Akhtar told India Today, "We have had a CBFC Board for about 50-55 years, and we respect them for who they are. We would prefer it if they could certify our films."

Filmmaker Vishal Bhardwaj told Times of India, that the board members and the chairman are all selected by the government, adding that this move will take away the CBFC's autonomy.

"It is completely wrong. The board members are selected by the government and even the chairman is selected by the government. And if a certificate is recalled there is no autonomy left. Then the proposal should be scrapped. But why was it proposed in the first place? It is mentioned that the Shyam Benegal committee has made suggestions which I think is doubtful. You should ask Shyam Benegal did he propose this also."
Vishal Bhardwaj, Filmmaker
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The Shyam Benegal committee was formed to give recommendations to the CBFC for reforms. Filmmakers Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra, who headed the committee in 2016 said that, in a detailed report, the committee suggested changes but maintained that the Board should certify films.

"We all stressed upon the fact that the Board should certify films, and not censor them, and gave them categories for certification as well," he added.

Legendary filmmaker Shyam Benegal believes that the 'recertification of film' goes against the 'whole ethos of the constitution itself'.

"If you look at the report, there is no such thing on recertification. The issue is a very simple one. The fact is that the government wants to take over the job of what should rightfully belong to the CBFC. There are two choices--either get rid of censorship or it is going to be a simple process of certification," he said.

"For certification, you will probably have to say that the limits of your self-expression must be contained within the constitutional limits of the country. Recertification of film, according to me, is against the whole ethos of the constitution itself."
Shyam Benegal, Filmmaker
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Former CBFC Chairman Pahlaj Nihalani added that the I & B Ministry did not take into consideration any of the changes suggested by the Mudgal Committee in 2013 or the Shyam Benegal Committee in 2016.

"I had given a list of suggestions that we wanted to implement, in my two and a half years. Firstly, Cinematograph Act is very old, and should be changed to Digital Act, in view of the present digital era. We had even asked for the body to classify films as per certain criteria, such as age, sexual content and violence, we have given six ratings," he said.

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