MUMBAI — A relic of colonial rule may be swept away if India moves forward with changes to its 60-year-old Cinematograph Act, last revised nearly a decade ago.
An amendment skedded for the next session of India’s Parliament, starting Aug. 1, would replace the archaic system of movie censorship and certification with a modern ratings structure similar to that in the U.S. The changes in the law would end the current system of forcing directors and producers to edit their works before they can be released theatrically.
Indian moviemakers have often complained that their films are chopped in such brutal ways that the tone and tenor change drastically. Recently, Luv Ranjan settled for a UA certificate (suitable for those above 12 accompanied by parents) on his “Pyaar ka punchnama” (Postmortem) after cutting a scene that included a glimpse of cleavage, and another in which a girl kissed a boy’s cheek.
Leela Samson, the new chair of the Central Board of Film Certification, said the proposed amendment will classify movies into more categories than the three that now exist — U (universal viewing), UA and A (suitable for those over 18).
However, film certification has little meaning in India where theater staff often allow children in to see adult movies.
The proposed changes to the Cinematograph Act come after Samson met Bollywood filmmakers in June and asked for their input. Other proposals include changing the org’s name to the Indian Board of Film Certification and a migration to online applications.
The Cinematograph Act is a remnant of the days of British rule, when the colonists tried to tamp down anything that would lead to unrest in India. It included various moral clauses banning nudity, sex scenes, kissing and plots that might lead to communal unrest.
Aside from the censors, regular citizens also hold up a release if any part of a film is objectionable: The title of Bollywood pic “Billu Barber” was changed because barbers felt maligned. The proposed updates to the act do not seem to address this issue.
And despite changes to the certification process, some films are still unlikely to be seen in India.
Qaushik Mukherjee’s fest circuit fave “Gandu” (Asshole), which features full frontal nudity to say nothing of its title, has yet to secure a local release despite winning accolades at Cannes and Berlin.
(Shalini Dore contributed to this report.)