The actor-filmmaker has questioned the Board's censorship practices and also sought revamp of the Cinematograph Act
Lasyapriya Sundaram (BOMBAY TIMES; April 18, 2017)

Following actor-filmmaker Amol Palekar's recent writ petition questioning censorship practices in the country and seeking a complete revamp of the Cinematograph Act, the Supreme Court (SC) has sought a reply from the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) and the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting. Palekar has challenged the pre-censorship of movies, calling it irrelevant in the internet era. From the time Pahlaj Nihalani took over as its chairman, the Censor Board has had to weather multiple storms. For example, the CBFC had earned a lot of ridicule for issuing a list of cuss words that were banned from films.

When the board tried to cut a kiss shot in the 2015 James Bond thriller, Spectre, the backlash led to it being tagged as 'Sanskari'. The cuts suggested by the Board in Udta Punjab (2016) led to its makers seeking intervention from the Bombay High Court. The CBFC was made to eat humble pie after the court ruled in favour of the filmmakers. Cut to 2017 and films like Haraamkhor and Lipstick Under My Burkha have already had to fight their battles with the Board.

About his petition, Palekar said, “After about 47 years, the constitutional validity of the provisions of the Cinematograph Act of 1952 is being challenged. Usually, producers or directors approach the judiciary to seek relief if their film is being denied certification. No one finds it necessary to hit the broader issues beyond their own specificimmediate reliefs. It's high time we proceed to reclaim our evaporating freedom.“

On his part, Nihalani said that while they “will co-operate and answer every query“, he also believes that “a revamp is necessary“. He elaborated, “We need a rating system. Films are mad from a realistic perspective and the current guidelines make it difficult for the Board to certify them. But I don't agree with the recommendations made by the Shyam Benegal Committee. After assuming office in January 2015, I had sent a set of recommendations in February and then in June. We are waiting for a response from the government.“

Meanwhile, veteran filmmaker Shyam Benegal, who was appointed the head of the committee formed by the government to suggest changes in the certification process, said, “We had submitted the recommendations in two parts. While part one was submitted in April, the concluding part was handed over in October.But neither the members of the committee nor I have heard from the government.“

We tried to get in touch with the Minister of State for Information & Broadcasting, Rajyavardhan Rathore, but didn't receive any response till the time of going to press.