Anurag Kashyap, Hansal Mehta, Vetri Maaran, Nandita Das, Shabana Azmi, Farhan Akhtar, Zoya Akhtar, and Dibakar Banerjee are among the actors and filmmakers who have written an open letter to the Information and Broadcasting Ministry opposing the government’s proposed amendments to the 1952 Cinematograph Act. They claim that the measure could put “freedom of expression and democratic dissent in jeopardy.”
The Centre posted the draught Cinematograph (Amendment) Bill 2021 earlier this month for public comment until July 2. The latest proposal would change the Cinematograph Act of 1952 to grant the Centre “revisionary powers” and allow it to “re-examine” films that have already been cleared by the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC).
On Sunday evening, Eeb Allay Ooo! renowned filmmaker Prateek Vats and documentary filmmaker Shilpi Gulati, along with an academician and a lawyer, produced an online letter with over 1400 signatories from various walks of life.
“In yet another setback for the film industry, the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting has proposed further revisions to the Cinematograph Act, giving the Central Government the right to cancel or recall certification of films that have already been approved by the Censor Board. This clause will effectively give the Central Government total power over cinema exhibition in the country, thereby threatening freedom of expression and democratic dissent,” the letter added, undermining the Censor Board and the Supreme Court’s sovereignty.
“Filmmakers will be rendered powerless in the hands of the state, making them more subject to threats, destruction, and mob censorship. The proposal to change the Cinematograph Act comes two months after the Film Certification Appellate Tribunal (FCAT) was dissolved by the Centre in April 2021. …,” Read the tweet.
The letter was written just days after filmmaker-musician Vishal Bhardwaj used Twitter to urge his peers in the industry to oppose the move. The letter will almost certainly be signed by the director. Prateek Vats, in an interview, said it’s critical for artists to “unequivocally” express their concerns and proposals against a proposal that would limit filmmakers’ creative freedom.
“Our proposals are based on the recommendations of two previous committees, Shyam Benegal and Justice Mudgal. They’d previously made a list of suggestions. They claim to be implementing it, but they are not actually doing so. We, as a fraternity, have voiced our opinions and concerns. It’s fine if they want to change up the act. The aim should be that the filtering process’ independence and openness be emphasised, according to the director.
Prateek went on to say that the proposed amendment merely serves to “delegitimize” the CBFC, which means that artists will have to live in continual fear of the body’s judgement being overturned.
“Giving the union government revisionary power is a horrible idea in principle. Because you’re undermining the legitimacy of your own legal process. You’re undermining the credibility of the CBFC as an organisation… It will be tough for everyone, including individual filmmakers, documentary filmmakers, producers, and large production firms, if the FCAT is abolished.
“They’ll have to keep in mind that the censorship can be removed at any time. What exactly does that imply? It is vital that we, as a fraternity, express our suggestions in clear and unmistakable terms. “Don’t pretend we weren’t involved,” Prateek remarked.