Exclusive Interview with : Shyam Benegal, director and screenwriter
Updated on: 22 Jun 2016
Shyam Benegal, director and screenwriter, says he wholeheartedly welcomes the Bombay high court judgment on Udta Punjab and that he is personally against censorship.
What is your take on the entire film censorship question? Officially, there is no censorship today. The Central Board of Film Certification's job is to certify films, not censor them. Any attempt to censor a film only means harking back to the old days. We have to go by the demands of the times we live in. Today one can watch just about anything on television, the Internet and on other multimedia platforms. We can't be blind to the reality of a changing world. Under the Cinematograph Act 1952, we once did have a board of film censorship. So films were censored. In 1983, the board was renamed CBFC. It tends to be paternalistic; it sees people as children whose viewing has to be monitored. Things have changed, but not enough. Vestiges of the past continue to linger.
When you submitted your own first few films in the mid-1970s — Ankur, Nishant, et al — did you face any censorship trouble? Oh yes, most of my films had trouble. None of my films went through unscathed. Nishant had a problem. I had to put a disclaimer in the beginning and a disclaimer at the end. The reason was all political.
How different is the present case related to Udta Punjab? It is very different. Some say the film defames the Punjab government; others assert it is one-sided in its depiction of the problem. The controversy was triggered by the CBFC chairman. The filmmakers had applied for an adult certificate, not a universal certificate, so there was no reason why all those cuts had to be ordered.
Most filmmakers want their films to be given a U certificate. But what if a difficult CBFC chief acts tough on the grounds that the film has elements unsuitable for universal viewing?