The Censorship Dance

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The censor Board has been doing the jitterbug for quite some time now. But many say it has been dancing to the wrong tunes for the past few years. Another censor board controversy came up when it ordered for 89 cuts in the movie ‘Udta Punjab’.  The entire film industry and media went topsy-turvy. People lashed out at the censor board for taking such hasty decisions. Many out there are baffled up about the role censor board plays. We always joke about censor board getting to see the best scenes and giving us the stale ones. But censor board is more than that. Censorship is the suppression or control of ideas, public communication and information circulated within a society . The freedom of speech guaranteed by the Constitution of India can be suppressed if it is considered objectionable, harmful, or necessary to maintain communal harmony.

‘Udta Punjab’ is a movie that deals with the serious issue of drug menace in Punjab. While the censors are busy doing cuts from movies that deal with social problems, many grumble about movies like Agneepath that pass the censorship test with ease. We are still haunted by the repercussions of such movies on young kids who resort to violence inspired by their favorite heroes who hammer and cane down people onscreen with ease. We cannot forget the incident that took place few years back when a student killed a teacher inspired by lot of violent scenes from the movie Agneepath.

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Censorship may not be bad when it blocks inappropriate sites and bad words etc. But it’s a different story when they take away our freedom, unable to make our own decisions, banning certain books and movies. I would disagree that a movie would directly affect a child’s mind unless the child is totally oblivious of his/her surroundings which cannot be possible in any case. Children interact and observe their surroundings which shape their character. Therefore, it would be unfair to blame the media and movies for spoiling a child’s mind.

There was a recent report by BBC regarding Indian government. The Indian government had accused three TV news networks of violating broadcasting regulations by airing interviews that criticized last month’s execution of Yakub Memon, the man convicted of financing the deadly 1993 Mumbai bombings. It even threatened to cancel the licenses of the channels for violating broadcasting laws. Well, the government spends crores making us watch those filthy advertisements on their progressive developments hijacking our televisions, mobiles and even my music app (God! I can’t even listen to a song in peace). I think if the government has the right to infringe on our rights to peaceful living, there is no harm in giving media and movies the right to free speech and expression.

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Subhankar quoted a Supreme Court ruling on film censorship: “Film censorship becomes necessary because a film motivates thought and action and assures a high degree of attention and retention as compared to the printed word.” I do agree with this. I would definitely agree that there are times when perhaps a piece of literature or a song that advocates violence against a particular group needs to be banned or at least confined.  But such ban should only be limited to such communal sentiments.  I would agree to the fact that the purpose of censorship is good. It is there to help protect people, their rights and communities. However if censorship is used the wrong way it would definitely do more harm than good and infringe on the right to free speech and expression.

 The government attempted to show its more open-minded approach at the recent “Cut-Uncut” festival in the capital, which screened originally censored film clips for the first time as part of Indian cinema’s centenary celebrations. Government needs to rope in efforts by relaxing such censorship norms and catering to the young and liberal minded youth.

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