Acclaimed Bengali filmmaker Shyam Benegal is to head a new government panel that will look into revamping the country’s film Censor Board which has been roundly criticized in recent months.
The panel will conduct a two-month long study into the workings of the Central Board for Film Certification which is currently led by film producer Pahlaj Nihalani who has come under attack for what many perceive to be his “moral policing” of the world’s most prolific film industry.
Nihalani was ridiculed in the summer after he released a list of words that would be censored during his tenure – including words like “bastard” and “bitch”.
Mr Benegal, one of India’s most revered filmmakers, will be joined by director Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra, advertising heavyweight Piyush Pandey and the film critic Bhawana Somaaya on the new panel. The panel also includes the Managing Director of India’s National Film Development Council, Nina Lath Gupta and Sanjay Murthy from the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting.
A statement released by the panel said it had been set up “in sync with the vision” of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The statement adds: “The recommendations of this Committee are expected to provide a holistic framework and enable those tasked with the work of certification of films to discharge their responsibilities keeping in view this framework”.
The staffing pattern of CBFC would also be looked into in an effort to recommend a framework which would provide efficient, transparent user friendly services, the statement continued.
“During their deliberations, the Committee would be expected to take note of the best practises in various parts of the world, especially where the film industry is given sufficient and adequate space for creative and aesthetic expression,” Mr Murthy said.
Friday’s announcement came within days of Information & Broadcasting Minister Arun Jaitley told the PTI wire service that the “time has come” to have a re-look at the functioning of Censor Board as he would like the Certification Board to be “controversy- free”.
Filmmakers have complained of arbitrary objections and cuts sought by the Board in recent months including the criticism for the cuts to the latest James Bond movie ‘Spectre’ had to go through for its screening in India.