India's Information and Broadcasting Ministry is all geared up to expand film censorship classifications.
U [Universal] , A [Adult] and U/A [Children must be accompanied by an adult] will continue to exist. A+ [indicating excessive gore, violence or sleaze], 12+ and 15+ are set to be introduced.
The proposed changes amending the Cinematograph Act will be implemented by October 2012.
Film censors of the CBFC said the need for devising new categories was felt as the film industry pressed for classification along international lines.
Author Jaishree Misra, who has worked as a film classifier at the British Board of Film Classification in London, thinks it's an extremely positive step to have a more refined system than the one India has had so far:
The pressure has been growing (both from filmmakers and society) to move from less censorship to more classification. Consequently, parents rely more and more on the system to guide them and so the more 'signals' they get from the symbols, the better it
is. The film industry can only benefit when audiences trust them not to have harmful content in their films and their regulatory system is the best way to achieve this.
India's information and broadcasting ministry and the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) want to introduce two age categories,
12+ and 15+ instead of the current U/A category so that parents have some idea on whether a film should be watched by their children or not. A censor board spokesman said:
U/A does not mean the film is okay for children to watch. It means that parents should use their discretion. A clear indication of which age is suitable for a film is the best way to avoid any confusion.
For both 12-plus and 15-plus-certified films, children will have to be accompanied by adults to a theatre and may need to show age proof, if asked. Under current rules, a child of 12 years or older can watch U/A films with adults in a theatre.
Sources in the I&B ministry said it had become imperative for the censor board to ensure clarity on which films could be allowed for unrestricted viewing by children. Officials said the step to review the U/A certification became necessary
after an uproar over a TV channel slotting The Dirty Picture in the afternoon, when children are likely to watch television.
The changes will be brought through an amendment to the Cinematograph Act, likely to be tabled in the monsoon session of Parliament.
In the light of continuing tension between India and Pakistan, the Indian Censor Board has sought to distance itself from neighbour Pakistan's film board. It wants a new name, Indian Board for Film Certification .
Both Indian and Pakistani film censor boards are currently known as the CBFC, Central Board of Film Certification in India and Central Board of Film Censors in Pakistan. This creates a lot of confusion on international platforms
especially at film festivals, said Leela Samson, chairperson of the Indian film board.
The CBFC also wants to hide its work as a censor board by spinning the illusion that it is a classification board. Samson claimed:
In today's day and time, censoring films doesn't make sense ...UNLESS... there are some gross violations such as a constitutional violation or something that hurts communal or religious sentiments [or nudity or sex or vulgarity or indecency
or obscenity etc...], we will not recommend the use of scissors. Instead, we will only certify the films as adult or ones that should be viewed with care.
Alongside this the board points out that using English language certificates is not a good idea. Samsom said:
It is a tragedy that... we continue to use English letters to denote whether a film is adult or fit for universal viewing... Most film goers don't even know what 'A' or 'U' stands for.
The CBFC wants certification to be denoted in regional languages apart from using conspicuous pictorial signs or illustrations to inform a viewer if a film has scenes of extreme violence or sex and if it is suitable for children.
Besides the board has asked the government to create more categories of certification. In particular a new category for children between the ages of 10 and 15 years is one such idea being considered.
India's I&B Ministry responsible for the media had a meeting with film producers and the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) to consider amendments
to the Cinematograph Act 1952.
If the Ministry has its way, films will no longer be certified as U, U/A, A (adults only). Instead, they will fall under any one of the following categories:
Above 12 years of age (Under Parental Guidance)
Above 15 years of age (Under Parental Guidance)
Above 18 years of age
Filmmakers are not too happy with the proposal as they feel it will limit their audience. CEO of the Film & Television Producers Guild of India, Kulmeet Makkar, said:
Yes, there is a proposal by the I&B Ministry but it would be very subjective in a country like ours, where children face different levels of exposure in different cities. One needs to understand India's diversity to understand the perspective of
filmmakers. We hope the new certification is not enforced.
The proposals will have to be formalised and passed into law by Parliament before changes can be made to the issuing of film certificates.
A draft Cinematographic Bill has bee posted on India's Information and Broadcasting (I & B) ministry's website. Comments from the public are now invited.
The drafting committee have included a clause such that if a film has been awarded a certificate then this con then only be revoked by central government. Indian films have been targeted by by vested groups, religious campaigners and politicians all
seeking localised bans on films, and the bill is seeking to end this rather chaotic situation.
The Committee has also sought to bring the classification of films up to speed by suggesting a shift to the internationally prevalent practise of age-related classifications and certifications. As against the current practise of U , U/A and
A certification, the Committee has proposed to break-up U/A by age to 12+ and 15+ while retaining U and A . The bill also contains penalties of 1 to 3 years in jail, and/or large fines for showing films to underage
The Committee has also reviewed certain definitions contained in the Cinematograph Act, 1952, to incorporate the sea of changes in film-making. The word film under the proposed law will not be confined to the moving picture content of the film
but will include songs and lyrics of the song. This has been done to give the film censors extended powers over songs that offend the easily offended.
The bill proposes that trailers, promotional clips, posters and other material should be certified by the Board or through industry associations.
India takes its time over changes to film censorship law and similar ideas have been discussed several times before.
Now it is reported that India's film censors of the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) has accepted the recommendations of a government-appointed panel to introduce new movie categories.
The government appointed the panel led by filmmaker Shyam Benegal following allegations that the CBFC was stifling artistic freedom under the crazed CBFC chairman Pahlaj Nihalani .
The panel submitted its report to the Centre recently on restructuring the Cinematography Act and rules, under which films are categorised depending on the nature of its contents including adult themes. The panel has suggested adding more categories for
films with explicit sexual content instead of CBFC's use of the scissors, which often leads to conflict with filmmakers over allowing kissing scenes, sexual content and cuss words in films.
The CBFC board however questioned some of the new categories and how they will be defined, such as adult with caution . At present, films with explicit adult content are given an A certificate, a U/A certificate which mandates
parental accompaniment for children below 12 and the U certificate for universal viewing.
The Benegal committee has recommended dividing the U and UA Categories to UA12+ and UA15+ and the A category to be sub-divided into A and AC (adult with caution) categories. The proposed A/C category will not include pornography, but will be a
certificate for films with explicit sexual content or nudity.
Pornographic films or those that supposedly hurt religious sentiments or harm national security will still be banned.
Changes to India's film classifications will require new legislation.