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Interview Hindi

We have no business to delete parts of someone’s creative work: Vani Tripathi on CBFC

Cinestaan.com caught up with Vani Tripathi Tikoo at the ongoing LIFFT India Awards and Filmotsav 2017 in Lonavala.

Vani Tripathi Tikoo. Photo: LIFFT India

Sukhpreet Kahlon

Actor and activist Vani Tripathi Tikoo is the youngest member of the Central Board Of Film Certification (CBFC). Passionately engaged with programmes focusing on issues such as education, empowerment and employment, she was attending the ongoing LIFFT India Awards and Filmotsav 2017 in Lonavala. Tripathi Tikoo spoke to Cinestaan.com in an exclusive interview where she discusses censorship and her love for acting. 

There’s been a long standing debate regarding the functions of the censor board in that it needs to certify a film and not censor and cut away parts of it. There has been a recent overhaul of the board after several controversies. What, in your opinion, would be the guiding principles followed by the newly appointed Board members?

We do have a new chairperson, Prasoon Joshi and I was reappointed in the committee. We are yet to have our meeting but the inherent nature of the certification vs censorship debate is deeply flawed. We are bound by the Act of 1952, so the guidelines need to change and a Constitutional amendment is very important in order to achieve this. From 1952 to 2017, we have seen huge changes around us and in the world and we need to reflect those changes. The word ‘censorship’ came up in the 1930s at the time of the British rule to ensure that the colonies remained in the annals of darkness. So that word needs to be done away with.    

We are a certification board and need to certify films from a societal interest point of view, where content can be deemed suitable for certain age groups. Our ratings system is also deeply flawed when seen in hindsight as it may have been relevant for the times when it was initiated but not now. So, the ratings also need to change.

We also need to understand that certification is not a creative process, it is a sociological one. We have no business to delete what is part of someone’s creative work. For me, when I certify a film, the context of the narrative is very important. An abuse can be completely out of place in some work but may be very relevant, depending on the narrative of the film. 

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As you’ve mentioned ratings, while they need to change, shouldn’t there also be some way of ensuring the implementation of the ratings?

Well there definitely needs to be an enhancement of ratings. There is a world of a difference between a 13-year-old and a 16-year-old today. In the USA, there’s PG 13 or PG 16. The Shyam Benegal committee has also made recommendations regarding this where the rating is U with responsibility. So let the adults take responsibility and let the onus be on the viewer as to who is watching the film. While one can issue a caution if there is explicit content, the rest will be left on the viewer. The idea that an 18-year-old can vote a government to power, but not watch certain content is absurd.

There have been films recently that haven’t been allowed screenings by the CBFC like In the Shade of Fallen Chinar and are now available online. What are your views on the way in which the digital space is being accessed to disseminate content?

I haven’t seen this film so I cannot comment on it specifically, but with every freedom and expression comes a degree of responsibility. A work that can provoke people or create communal disharmony should be treated differently. 

With respect to online content, in time, perhaps the idea of certification itself will become redundant but I feel we lose out with online content because the magic of cinema lies in the theatres, where films are meant to be viewed. But there is the parallel space of the digital universe, some of which is anarchic as people can trash reputations at the click of a button and opine on all kinds of stuff. Perhaps this is a part of the medium itself.

At the festival, Leena Yadav had talked about resisting labels of being a ‘female director’ and all the baggage that it brings in our country. Do you feel that in the current times, the audience is more receptive to films that look at women’s stories and that it’s a good time for filmmakers exploring these stories?

There’s never a particular time really. When Manthan and Chakra were released they broke the glass ceiling. But we are so eager to label women filmmakers. When Sofia Coppola receives the Palme d’Or at Cannes no one asks her if she’s made a woman’s film. So, I congratulate Leena for her film and Ashwini Iyer for giving a commercial hit as the box office is also such a big force. Kudos to Alankrita Shrivastav for her film as well. In terms of sexuality, we have a long journey ahead. These 2-3 films are maybe a start in that direction. We’ve grown up with misogyny and patriarchy, so they aren’t going to go out so soon.

Finally, you are an actor and you regaled us with a lovely dramatic book reading session at LIFFT India. Are we going to see you as an actor soon and not just as a politician?

Well, I was amongst the last batch of students who were taught by Ebrahim Alkazi so theatre will always be an intrinsic part of me. It may have taken a backseat for a bit, but I am planning to produce and direct a play soon so the actor in me will never go away. I also admire Namita Gokhale immensely whose book I read out from and she’s done such an amazing job with the Jaipur Literature Fest, which is probably the best festival in the world! So I want to continue the readings as I enjoy them thoroughly.

Politics is also theatrical in many ways! There’s never a dull moment but I enjoy it immensely as I am passionate about issues regarding women and the youth, which are very close to my heart.

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