By Utpal Borpujari
The Indian film certification system that divides movies into “U”, “UA” and “A” categories is soon going to witness a sea change, with three new categories to address age and, in certain cases, even the profession of the viewers.
The new film certification system is a crucial part of the draft Cinematograph Bill, 2010, which will be introduced in Parliament for ratification after suitable views from stakeholders, including the public.
Once cleared by Parliament, the new Act will replace the Cinematograph Act of 1952, considered by many to be archaic considering the change in all aspects of filmmaking and viewing in all these years.
While the new system will retain the “U” (for universal viewing) and “A” (for viewing by adult or 18+ viewers), the “UA” system, which was given to films viewable by children if accompanied by adults, will be replaced by more age-specific “12+” and “15+” certification categories.
The two new age-specific categories are aimed at giving certification to films on the basis of sensibilities towards language, violence, nudity and subject in various age groups.
The Bill also proposes a completely new category, called “S”, for films that will be allowed to have restricted exhibition only for members of particular profession or class, depending on their nature, content and theme. However, the Bill does not explain what will be these professions or classes of people and what kind of films could fall under this certification category.
The Bill, addressing another important aspect of film certification, says that children below the age of three years, accompanying their parents or guardians, would be allowed to view all categories of films. This exception has been allowed ostensibly because of the reason that children so young cannot grasp those aspects of cinema because of which the age-specific certification exists.
Violations of various provisions of film certification by producers and exhibitors would attract fines that could range between imprisonment of not less than one year or a fine of Rs one to three lakh or both. If the violations continue even after that, a further fine of between Rs 5,000 and Rs 20,000 per day is also being envisaged in the Bill.
Addressing another important aspect, the draft Bill aims at ensuring that one-third of the members of the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC), popularly known as the “Censor Board”, as well as the advisory boards, will be women.
This is in consonance with the aims of the Women’s Reservation Bill, waiting the nod from Lok Sabha and aiming at ensuring one-thirds reservation for women in legislatures.
The Bill also fixes a lower and upper limit of 12 and 25 on the number of people who can be in the CBFC. However, it is silent on whether the same upper limit would be applicable to the regional boards of CBFC, which all the time end up as parking zones for the favourites and lackeys of the party in power.
Apart from this, the Bill proposes stringent action against film piracy, with punishments for the crime ranging between imprisonment of one to three years and fines of Rs 5-25 lakh, or both.