“Censorship reflects society’s lack of confidence in itself” – Potter Stewart
Another way of looking at this would be to assume that censorship is essentially advertisements by the Government. Whatever be the insecurity faced leading to the act of censoring may be, it ultimately ends up defeating its own purpose – in the end what it does create is a group of frustrated entities who want light to be shed on them. Consequently, the insecurity spreads, and they become devoid of the capability to exercise discretion in day to day activities in the real world. The mutilated “reel” world has done its job.
A vivid example of censoring plagues the Bengali film industry in 2013. Kangal Malsat, literally translating to “War Cry of Beggars” was a Bengali political film that fell prey to the vice-like grip of censorship in India. The Central Board of Film Certification or the CBFC did not provide approval to the filmon the grounds that it allegedly had distorted history and had portrayed social movements of those days in a dangerous way. The Board also cited “excessive use of abusive language” and sexuality in the film as reasons for it being censored. However it did release in August 2013, once it was cleared by the Film Certification Appellate Tribunal.
The Bengali film industry has had to endure other such casestoo, like for example the movie Take One directed by Mainak Bhaumik that released in 2014, amidst much debate.Come 2015, we see yet more instances of the Central Board of Film Certification cracking down on movies that dared to tread the “wrong”, “immoral” and “unethical” path. Family Album, another piece of art by Mainak Bhaumik, and the famous Rajkahini by none other than the great Srijit Mukherjihimself, faced scrutiny having touched upon quite a few sensitive nerves of the society. In 2016, we see Khawto, directed by Kamaleswar Mukherjee and starring the likes of Prosenjit Chatterjee, Paoli Dam and Raima Sen – which also faces trouble from the Board.
Now let’s move back in time to 1992. The “City of Joy” movie wasn’t allowed to be released by the Censorship Board on the grounds that it portrayed Kolkata in a not-so-good way.
The question inevitably arises – if we cannot accept our past, how can we even dream of accepting our future? And how will the past and future even come to be thought of, when we can’t even accept the present state of things? It might be the scenario that the Censorship Board does not want the sentiments of people to be hurt, or that factions of society get irked and rise up against another faction; none the less, mutilating a work of art, as significant in today’s world, as the cinema, is a crime the Government is committing and turning a blind eye to. This should be abated, if we are to progress.
It would be safe to say that censorship, not only in the Bengali film industry, but all over India is a frightening prospect. It is ultimately interfering in the works of an artist and it’s happening again and again regardless of the protests and marches and letters and what-not. For in the end, censorship is to art, what lynching is to justice.