Film-makers rue curbs on creative freedom

March 27th, 2008 - 3:21 pm ICT by admin  

Mumbai, March 27 (IANS) Film-makers Shyam Benegal, Mahesh Bhatt and Pritish Nandy are anguished that some social organisations are trampling on the creative freedom of producers by trying to foist their political agenda. They were taking part at a panel discussion on “Is Media and Entertainment Socially Responsible”, held at the FICCI-Frames 2008 global convention on the business of entertainment here Wednesday.

“Social values and economics must go hand-in-hand. There is need for a cultural renaissance. If an entertainer is denied the freedom of expression, creative freedom is lost,” said Nandy, CEO of Pritish Nandy Communications.

Sharmila Tagore, chairperson of the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) and one of the panellists, admitted that the CBFC did at times tell film-makers to delete some scenes or dialogues when it was felt these might lead to social unrest.

“But CBFC is a transparent body. Under the Right to Information Act, you can always seek to know why the Board acted in a particular manner while certifying a film for public viewing,” she said.

She said it was not CBFC’s job to pass judgement on the film-makers’ creativity.

But India is a multilingual, multicultural society with different sensibilities. So, it has to ensure that a film does not go against the social tenets, she said.

While admitting that he had faced no hurdles with the CBFC at any time, Shyam Benegal, however, pointed out that censorship had taken a political colour today. This, he said, was a bad precedent.

“When a problem arises over a film, the police step in and ban its public screening, giving the alibi that they have to maintain law and order. But do they have to suspend a film’s screening to maintain law and order? By acting in the manner they do, are not the police taking the easy way out?” he asked.

In his characteristic outspoken way, Mahesh Bhatt lambasted the CBFC and “the so-called socially-conscious organizations” for trampling upon the creative freedom of the film-makers.

He said while it was the responsibility of the state machinery to maintain law and order, the helplessness it often shows in trying to do so was pathetic.

“For the state, the freedom of expression has become a dispensable commodity of late and this is still more pathetic,” Bhatt said.

Another panellist, Reliance Entertainment chairman Amit Khanna, criticised politicians for their grip over the media.

He referred to the different laws that exist today and said those only serve to stifle the growth of the media.

“But the media has a great power. Ultimately, it will change the way we are governed and who we are governed by,” he pointed out.

Zohra Chatterjee, joint secretary in the ministry of information and broadcasting, said the government was trying to put together a content code for the media, including the broadcasting industry.

She urged the media, especially the broadcasters, to do research on consumer preferences and not just be guided by the TRP (television rating points).

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