No ‘A’ films on TV: Bollywood in a tizzy over new Censor rule
Vickey Lalwani (MUMBAI MIRROR; August 25, 2012)
Forget at what time The Dirty Picture and Jannat 2 will be shown on TV. Soon, any new film that originally had an ‘A’ certificate will not be telecast on the small screen at all.
The Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) told Mumbai Mirror on Friday that it has decided to stop re-certifying A-rated films for TV, thereby making them ineligible for television screening. It’s a decision – taken after discussions within the Board in accordance with the provisions of the 1952 Cinematograph Act – that is now threatening to derail several top-of-the-line production houses which make a chunk of their profits from the advance sale of satellite rights.
A number of big-ticket films, including Aamir Khan’s home production Delhi Belly, Anurag Kashyap’s Gangs of Wasseypur (parts 1 and 2) and Vikram Bhatt’s Hate Story are waiting for CBFC clearance. The satellite rights of many of these films have already been sold to broadcasters for tens of crores.
When contacted, the censor board’s CEO Pankaja Thakur confirmed that the re-certification had stopped already. “We’re no longer modifying and certifying films to make them suitable for TV viewing,” she said. “This was not a part of the Cinematograph Act. We would like it to be included in the Act, but that is up to Parliament.”
For the last several years, the CBFC has been modifying A-rated films, both from India and abroad, through a ‘Form of Conversion’ that was introduced at the Board-level to facilitate the TV telecast of certain movies.
A controversy began last month when objections were raised with the manner in which The Dirty Picture had been modified for TV, with a case filed against its telecast.
The CBFC then told the film producers that they should specify to TV channels that all modified A-rated films should only be shown only after 11 pm. This suggestion was accepted for The Dirty Picture, but the producers of Jannat 2, fearing a loss of revenue in satellite rights, challenged the CBFC’s guideline in the Film Certification Appellate Tribunal (FCAT).
The FCAT ruled in the production house’s (Mahesh Bhatt’s Vishesh Films) favour, and told CBFC that it could not decide the slotting of films on TV.
It was then that matters came to a head. “The modification of A-rated films was a facility that the CBFC was extending to the film industry to help them show their movies on TV. If we were doing something extra for them, we had a right to attach certain riders to it,” Thakur said. “Since this 11 pm condition is unacceptable, we have decided to go strictly by the original Act. We want the role of the CBFC to be redefined. If we are supposed to modify or re-certify films for TV viewing, it should be specified in the Act.”
The film industry is now starting to panic. Insiders say that satellite rights of a movie constitute nearly 40 per cent of its gross earnings. “If the film cannot be telecast, won’t the channel want a refund? And hereafter, won’t Adult films have no buyers whatsoever?” a producer, who asked not to be named, said.
“This is a very serious matter,” thundered Mahesh Bhatt. “The film industry will have to lock horns with the government. We might require judicial intervention, or the entire economics of the film industry will go topsy turvy.”
Similar sentiments were expressed by Mukesh Bhatt, who described the move as a “backward step in the film industry’s centenary year” and Pahlaj Nihalani, who said it was “tantamount to stifling of our freedom of expression”.
A list of recent films with an A-certificate would include some of the most talked-about movies in recent months, including Saheb Biwi Aur Gangster, Shor in the City, Shaitan, Ishqiya, Desi Boyz, Love Sex Aur Dhoka, Jism 2, Murder 2, and Ragini MMS.
But the CBFC says it cannot do much since the matter has already been raised with the I & B Ministry. “We thought that the 11 pm slot was an ideal solution, but now matters have escalated to a point where a decision should be taken one way or the other,” Thakur said.
A letter to this effect has been dispatched to the production house UTV in reply to a query, and other such letters may be sent shortly.
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