Waiting to know what government is doing with committee report: Shyam Benegal

Amidst the hullabaloo over Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) chief Pahlaj Nihalani‘s diktats and rumoured replacement plans, veteran filmmaker Shyam Benegal is wondering what the government is doing with the report submitted by a panel led by him last year.

It was in April last year that the Shyam Benegal Committee report was submitted to the Information and Broadcasting Ministry, proposing ways to revamp the censor board to be in sync with the changing times. But there has been a lull on that front since then.

Benegal, whose panel also included Kamal Haasan and Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra, says he is as clueless as others.

“I am waiting to know what they are doing with the report, just like you are waiting,” Benegal told IANS over phone.

Benegal was handed the responsibility of suggesting ways to modify the workings of the censor board as filmmakers in the past few years have been locking horns over the ‘censorship’ rather than ‘certification’ methods.

The report suggested some major changes — like taking away the CBFC’s power to demand cuts in a film, and also made recommendations about the size of board and its functioning.

From creating trouble for “Lipstick Under My Burkha” over its sexual scenes and abusive words, to raising objections to the broadcast of a clip with the word ‘intercourse’ from Shah Rukh Khan starrer “Jab Harry Met Sejal” on television to stirring up yet another controversy by suggesting 12 cuts and two disclaimers, including removal of words like RSS and Akali from “Indu Sarkar” — the CBFC has been in the news for all the wrong reasons in the past few months.

Now, there are reports that the government is planning to sack Nihalani, who has steered clear from the news by saying: “So far, I have not heard any such plans from the government.”

Benegal wants to stay away from commenting on the buzz.

“I have no comments to make on such type of things (on Nihalani being asked to step down). I also don’t wish to speculate (on who could be the next CBFC head),” said the 82-year-old.

Nihalani is also in the news for saying that “disclaimers aren’t enough for scenes showing actors smoking or drinking”, and expressed his wish to scrap them unless there’s “strong provocation” for the sequence.

Benegal, a Dadasaheb Phalke Award winner, wonders why Nihalani’s comments garner so much attention.

“Well, he can say what he wants… There are printed guidelines, which is also a constitutional requirement for the certification. Now, one doesn’t have to go by the statements that anybody makes. I don’t see any reason on why we should go on commenting on what statements he is making.”

Reflecting on his thoughts about the smoking and drinking disclaimers, Benegal, known for critically acclaimed cinematic offerings like “Ankur”, “Nishant”, “Manthan” and “Bhumika”, said: “Most of the filmmakers in any case don’t show smoking because they have to put that line there. Whenever smoking happens they have to put a line there saying smoking is bad for health… That we had for a long time so there is nothing new in that.”

(Sugandha Rawal can be contacted at sugandha.r@ians.in)

By Sugandha Rawal