Central Board of Film Certification Chairperson Pahlaj Nihalani has reportedly compiled a list of 28 'profane' words in English and Hindi that he wants banned from use in films. His defence is that abusive language in films adversely impacts millions of people, especially children, who watch cinema, and that the malicious influence percolates into their day-to-day behaviour.
While there is no running away from the fact that films are a major medium of influence, the bright idea to ban the 28 words Mr Nihalani has short-listed in his profound wisdom, beats reason. For one, what about the hundreds of other cuss words that float around in those two languages? Is it okay to use them but not the listed ones? Moreover, what is the guarantee that more words will not be added to the list as time goes by? There may even come a day when the Censor Board decides to strike down cuss words retrospectively - which means that films released with proper certification months ago could be summoned on the Censor Board surgeon's table for deletion of words that were lately considered to be offensive! The job of the Censor Board is to certify films based on their content.
If it believes that a particular film has offensive language that is revolting, it has the option to study the profane words in the overall context of the film, the character that mouths them, and the film's theme. If it believes the cuss language fit into the larger context, it must let the words go unedited, though it can decide to give a 'A' or a 'U/A' certification to filter the age of audience that gets to watch such films.
It is also possible that film-makers may use such language for the sake of 'value-addition' and without any real justification of the plot or characters. Here the Board can ask the film-maker to delete the offensive words. This has happened before. But it simply makes no sense to ban words across the board. Being a film-maker, Mr Nihalani ought to realise the importance of creative freedom in the film industry. Hopefully, better sense will prevail.
Meanwhile, it is wrong to read into the Censor Board chief's proactiveness an extension of the Union Government's alleged desire to cleanse society in a cultural sense. Unfortunately, this is what critics of the Narendra Modi regime have begun doing. They forget that quite a few members of the Censor Board, considered close to the regime or at least its larger ideology, have spoken out against Mr Nihalani's decision.
There is also no indication that the Union Ministry of Information and Broadcasting is backing the Censor Board Chairperson's diktat. While Mr Nihalani's concerns are appreciable, it must be left to the individual and the collective wisdom of the film fraternity to draw the red line between what is essential in the cinematic sense and what is avoidable profanity. He must trust his co- professionals in the industry.
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