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Adoor Gopalakrishnan slams censorship, calls for establishment of independent ministry of cinema

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In a newspaper piece, the 79-year-old Padma Bhushan recipient lambasted the decision to show a clip of a cancer patient with a disfigured face at screenings.

Our Correspondent

The workings of the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC), widely known as the censor board, has been a topic of discussion since its inception. Several filmmakers and film enthusiasts believe that censorship is an archaic concept that has no place in a democracy but there also those who are in favour of the practice.

Multiple National award-winning director Adoor Gopalakrishnan, one of India's most acclaimed filmmakers, recently wrote a scathing piece in the Indian Express newspaper criticizing the excessive censorship and the notices that crop up during screenings that, he claimed, ruin the viewer's experience and burden the producers.

The 79-year-old's write-up recounted the landmark proposals made by the SK Patil committee that lead to the setting up of a Film Institute, an annual international film festival, a Film Finance Corporation, a National Film Archive and the National Film Awards.

The filmmaker recalled how members of the Film Study Group, which was set up under the chairmanship of Shivarama Karanth, Mrinal Sen and Shyam Benegal, considered recommending that the government do away with censorship, which he described as an archaic and anachronistic concept, but this never happened because two members, BR Chopra and Ramanand Sagar, pleaded against the proposal.

According to the director, all governments since then have resorted to using censor certificates as a convenient method to meddle with the filmmaker's artistic expression.

He also lambasted the decision to show a clip of a cancer patient with a disfigured face during film screenings. "This showed a total lack of sensitivity on the part of the authorities: Cancer as such is a dreadful disease, should we add to the horror by showing those gruesome visuals? As a matter of fact, any sensible censor would ban its screening for the public," he wrote.

The acclaimed filmmaker also pointed out the hoops of fire independent filmmaker have to jump through in order to obtain all the required certificates. He wrote, "To ensure the prevention of cruelty to animals, a certificate has to be produced from the Animal Welfare Board of India that while filming, no animal has been hurt. The concerned authority sits somewhere in Faridabad and the poor producer cannot approach it from afar. The problem is overcome by go-betweens who would 'fix' this against payment of handsome amounts of money."

He also slammed the treatment meted out to independent filmmakers and highlighted how big producers get away with anything, citing the example of a Malayalam film whose plot revolves around the killing of a leopard — most likely a reference to the 2016 Mohanlal-starrer Pulimurugan. He claimed the film "got past the censors without cuts or bruises".

Adoor further observed that because of the ludicrously lengthy and expensive process of obtaining certificates, films were "increasingly portrayed in a world peopled only by humans to the exclusion of every other living thing in their environment".

One of the reasons for this, according to Adoor, is that those who treat filmmaking as artistic expression are a small minority, and their opinion does not count when policies are formulated.

He concluded his write-up by recommending the setting up of an independent ministry of cinema, which exists in countries that nurture and promote film culture.

A Padma Bhushan recipient, Adoor has made close to twenty acclaimed feature films.

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Censorship