MUMBAI — Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore, India’s Minister of State for Information and Broadcasting has attempted to allay film industry fears of growing censorship.
“We want film certification to be content based. We want the certification board to be a certification board,” said Rathore on Friday while delivering the valedictory address at Frames, the annual entertainment industry conference organised by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry.
The Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) has been in the eye of a storm ever since it was reconstituted in January with producer Pahlaj Nihalani as its chair. A list of banned words leaked to the media, causing uproar in the industry. Several of Nihalani’s board members opposed the list. The CBFC also asked Yash Raj Films, the producers of current hit “Dum Lagake Haisha” to mute the word ‘lesbian’ and four innocuous Hindi-language words before passing it with a UA (parental guidance) certificate.
“I understand where the fear is coming from. I think that has been addressed by the board itself where the board decided that a certain list would be put aside and be dealt with later. It is a smart way of handling an issue that had cropped up,” Rathore said.
Rathore also said that the long pending amendments to the Indian Cinematograph Act that first came into effect in 1920 would be implemented speedily. He is thinking of getting rid of the letter C in CBFC where certification in India is synonymous with censorship and replacing it with the word Ratings.
Another long pending desire of the film industry, both at home and overseas production managers, is the implementation of a ‘single window clearance system’ for crews shooting in India. Currently, it is a labyrinthine process involving permissions from myriad authorities. Even after that film crews may be “harassed,” as Rathore admitted, a euphemism for extorted.
After consultation with the industry, Rathore says he plans to get this implemented first at the central government level and then trickle it down to the state and then city level, with incentives being thrown in for speedy implementation.
The previous Congress Party-led government had promised to implement a single window system by January 2014, but that did not materialise. Rathore belongs to the Bharatiya Janata Party that swept into power in May 2014.
Rathore also spoke about working with the industry closely and building an atmosphere of mutual trust with the government.
“It is refreshing to have a minister and to have a government that is so open to looking at a dialogue with the media and entertainment industry. We’ve not enjoyed it to that extent in the past and we look forward to the journey in the future,” said Disney India Managing Director Siddharth Roy Kapur, after conveying a list of concerns that the industry had to the Minister at the closing event.