Thursday, August 5, 2021

Bollywood actors and filmmakers campaign against Cinematograph Act amendments

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Guwahati, June 30 (NKTV): Numerous Bollywood actors and filmmakers including the likes of Anurag Kashyap, Hansal Mehta, Vetri Maaran, Nandita Das, Shabana Azmi, Farhan Akhtar, Zoya Akhtar and Dibakar Banerjee have written an open letter to the Information & Broadcasting Ministry, against the Government’s proposed amendments to the 1952 Cinematograph Act. They are of the opinion that the amendments will endanger freedom of expression and democratic dissent.

An online letter was drafted by filmmaker Prateek Vats and documentary filmmaker Shilpi Gulati, along with an academician and a lawyer. The letter has over 1,400 signatories.

It may be mentioned here that earlier this month, the Centre had released the draft Cinematograph (Amendment) Bill 2021 to the general public for comments until July 02. The new draft proposes to amend the Cinematograph Act of 1952 with provisions that will give the Centre revisionary powers and enable it to re-examine films already cleared by the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC).

“As another blow to the film fraternity, the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting has proposed new amendments to the Cinematograph Act under which the Central Government would have the power to revoke or recall certification of films which have already been cleared by the Censor Board. Undermining the sovereignty of the Censor Board and the Supreme Court, this provision will effectively give the Central Government supreme power over cinema exhibition in the country potentially endangering freedom of expression and democratic dissent,” the letter stated. “This will also render filmmakers powerless at the hands of the state as more vulnerable to threats, vandalism and intimidation of mob censors. The proposal to amend the Cinematograph Act comes two month Centre dissolved the Film Certification Appellate Tribunal (FCAT) in April 2021.…,” read the excerpt.

The letter featured a list of suggestions for the government which are listed below:

  • The Cinematograph (Amendment) Bill 2021 must clearly define the role of the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) as a body which certifies film content for public exhibition and not as a censoring body.
  • The amendments giving powers to the Central Government to revoke a film certificate must be dropped. We agree with the spirit of the Supreme Court decision which held that this would violate the separation of powers in our democracy.
  • While we agree that film piracy poses real challenges to filmmakers, the proposed amendments do not address this concern effectively merely by introducing a penal provision. If introduced, sufficient exceptions on fair use, de minimis use and derivative work specific to films must be created. Systemic solutions to genuinely counter piracy must be introduced.
  • We recommend that the Film Certification Appellate Tribunal (FCAT) be reinstated, as it enables affordable and accessible remedies to filmmakers.
  • The Cinematograph Act must be amended to include a clear definition of public’ exhibition and bring under its purview only commercial films with substantive capital investment and revenue models tied to theatrical exhibitions.

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