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Degeneration of censor system

When CBFC was being overly critical about content of the movies, OTT platforms came as a breath of fresh air, giving filmmakers and actors the freedom to experiment

Degeneration of censor system

In a country where the censor board decides the duration of a kissing scene and where filmmakers had to resort to a pair of pigeons cooing and necking to denote a kiss, and milk was shown to spill for a sex scene in a film, it is strange that OTT platforms produce and stream some of the filthiest stuff. There is a great anomaly existing between various mediums carrying entertainment content.

Films meant for release in cinema halls have been facing various problems. Earlier, the British rulers called the shots. While the British Censor policy was mainly concerned with guarding its interests by suppressing any voice of dissent through films, it was not trying to be much of a moral guardian of the Indian populace, least of all the movie-loving folk. Kissing was allowed. In fact, even passionate kissing was allowed and nobody told you how long it should last.

Despite their efforts to curb anti-Raj content in films, filmmakers all over India managed to sneak in patriotism and the message of freedom.

When the Central Board of Film Censors was set up in 1951, the name itself made things clear. The intention was to sit as the Moral Guardian of the Indian public. This, despite the basic tenet, under which censorship was introduced, was never meant to guard people's morals. The idea was to maintain communal harmony, safeguard national interest and make sure no indecent content was passed off as entertainment.

Strangely, while the newly made-in-India Censor Board as good as adopted all the rules from the previous British controlled Censors, it found kissing on screen to be objectionable! That was only the beginning, later the censors went on to become the guardians of not only Indian morals, but also virtue. Every chairman and his/her committee set their own rules and interpretations!

The Chairman of the Board is appointed by the people in power and the person inevitably happens to be one of its Aye Sayers due to which, a blind eye is turned towards his shortcomings.

Over a period, since Independence, the Censor Board has only served as a villain. Earlier, a bureaucrat was appointed as the Chairman. No qualification or connect with the film industry or making of films was required. But, post the Emergency, the Board was renamed Central Board of Film Certification from the earlier Central Board of Film Censors.

The change of name did not change things in any way. May be it was the chair that made the Censor chiefs become megalomaniacs, even if the rulers from Delhi did not set terms.

But what can be termed as the lowest point in the history of the Censor Board was when, sometime back, another Government body took it to court. That was the Children's Film Society of India (CFSI)! The Board granted a UA certificate to one of their films. UA to a children's film? The film, titled "Chidiakhana", was okayed for a UA certificate (mandates parental guidance for children below age 12) by CBFC.

The CFSI had to take the matter to court. The court took a dim view of the working of the CBFC calling it ostrich-like and saying that the Board should not take people to be infantile and imbecile, and consider itself to be the only one with intelligence to decide what people should see. There were more damning comments made by the Court and one wonders if this will be enough to change the attitude of the Board.

All this in an era when OTT platforms are mushrooming and the content is delivered right on smartphone screens and televisions in people's homes. The content streaming on OTT platforms has been an issue since the onset of this platform. Most of it is morbid and vulgar, depicting graphic sex including the unnatural, with foul words galore.Looks like the audience has matured, the CBFC has not. The very purpose of replacing the word Censor with Certification in the Copyright Act has not helped change the way the Board functions and assumes power it has not been granted.

The screens starved of a big-banner, big-budget, big-bill film release, finally got War, a Yash Raj production.

The film went on to collect a record setting first-day figures of Rs 51.6 crore (Tamil and Telugu dubbed versions adding another Rs 1.75 crore) from 4,000 screens.

Dream Girl has proved to be a big hit, sustaining well during its third week taking its three week tally to about Rs 129 crore.

Chhichhore has collected about Rs 15 crore in its fourth week, taking its four week total to Rs 136 crore.

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