Censor board not into moral policing: Sharmila Tagore

By Shilpa Raina

New Delhi, Jan 17 (IANS) The debate whether Indian cinema needs a censor or not will continue forever, but Sharmila Tagore, chairperson of the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC), feels the body isn't into moral policing. She says it has to be matured for audience's sake and ensure that movies can compete with foreign films.

"We see ourselves as more of a certification body than just censor board. We are not into moral policing; we follow a middle path. There are certain things we let go, as we have to be a little more tolerant and mature. Times are changing and we have to change with it," Sharmila told IANS in an interview.

"I do believe in censorship and I do believe in freedom of expression, but at the same time there has to be a reasonable restriction. You really can't go back; the change of being liberal is here to stay for a longer time," she added.

The 64-year-old took charge in 2004. Since she came to the helm of affairs, the big screen has undergone a seachange in terms of content, dialogues and story-telling. The directors have become more experimental by making small-budget movies like "Tere Bin Laden" or tapping youngster's psychology with bold subjects in "Dev D" and "Love, Sex Aur Dhokha".

There was a time when slangs or abusive language used to raise eyebrows of the censor board and the bosses would chop such scenes off, but now movies like "Omkara", "Kaminey", Ishqiya" and "No One Killed Jessica" have paved way to silver screen without any cuts, but of course with an A-certificate.

Trying to explain the liberal attitude of the CBFC, Sharmila said: "See an 'Omkara' wouldn't have been 'Omkara' minus all those dialogues, especially where the movie opens, because it is a part of popular language; so we try to understand that."

With sex, love-making scenes and violence no more a taboo in Indian cinema, Sharmila feels the censor board has become lenient because Indian movies are frequently at international film festivals, reaching out to far more people and competing with foreign films; hence the change in perception and a flexible approach is must.

"You no longer make films for Indian audience, you make it for global audience. Young filmmakers are experimenting with subjects and doing great work. We are here because a majority of people want censorship in India because we live in a different society," she said.

"Our approach is - be modern but look life in the face," she added.

Though the censor board is becoming flexible, there are many filmmakers who are still unhappy with the body.

"Many filmmakers create a big fuss when we give them an A-certificate. They go out in public and say umpteen things about us and blame us for giving them adult certificate. But this is not a popularity contest; if we have given you certain certificate, we feel that your movie falls under that category," said Sharmila.

"We decide some portions, scenes or dialogues from the movie are objectionable by sheer common sense. We know our audience, we have to keep in mind the regional sensibilities and based on all this we give a certificate," she added.

For the past two years, Sharmila has been trying hard to get a fifth category in the certification - for the 15-plus children - because she feels they are maturing early.

At present the CBFC has four categories - Universal or U for all age group, Parental guidance of U/A, Adults only or A and Restricted to any special class or S.

"Most of the filmmakers want their movies to be certified under U/A. But that is just not possible. How can you show sex to a six-year-old child? How will the child interpret it? I admit that today's young directors are connecting with the younger audience, but if you are using a slang, I can't give you a U/A," she said.

"This is why I am pushing hard to get another category because 15-plus kids speak that language. They use the 'F' word more often and all those slangs; so yes, there is definitely need of that fifth category," she said, loking as graceful as ever in a dull pink sari and shawl.

(Shilpa Raina can be contacted at shilpa.r@ians.in)

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