Censorship and Creative Freedom: Since Independence to OTT Era
Parvathi Sajiv (The Leaflet) 09 February 2021
Internet Outrage grew louder as FIRs were registered against Tandav, the series on Amazon Prime. The battle between creative freedom and censorship has always existed which is now taking place on the OTT platforms. Since independence, censorship has found its way into other forms of media such as television and print, says PARVATHI SAJIV.
IN several states, FIRs were recently registered against the makers and actors of Tandav, Amazon Prime Video’s latest political drama series. This was following complaints against the inappropriate depiction of the UP Police Personnel and the character playing the role of Prime Minister in the show. This is one of the examples of outrage against content in the media.
Exercising freedom of speech has become difficult. The instances of the recent Tanishq Advertisement, the Padmavati row, or even the arrest of several journalists and student activists are cases that are fresh in everyone’s memory.
In its many forms, Censorship seems to have proliferated further, actively by people or forcibly, by political institutions, into the lives of Indian citizens. We see a flurry of tweets calling content creators ‘anti-national’, ‘seditious’, or even ‘anti-India.’
Article 19 ( 1) of the Indian Constitution protects all citizens’ freedom of speech and expression and the freedom to assemble peaceably and without arms, form associations or unions, and move freely throughout India’s territory.
The Fundamental Rights subcommittee in the Constituent Assembly agreed that freedom of speech is important but pondered the extent to which individual freedom could be allowed to be sacrificed to ensure the State’s safety and security.
Two years after the Indian Constitution came into effect, the Parliament passed the Cinematograph Act of 1952.
The 1952 Cinematograph Act sets out the structure of Censorship as it stands today as it governs the censorship of films. The Central Board of Film Certification ( CBFC) comes under the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting purview. It consists of the chairperson at the top, then the board members followed by the advisory panel. It assigns various certifications such as Universal, Adults, and Parental Guidance to India’s films before releasing.
From the chairperson down to the advisory panel members, everyone is a government appointee who has the authority to eliminate offensive or politically subversive content.
Section 5B of the Cinematograph Act is the core of the entire legislation which states that any film that is against the “interests of [the sovereignty and integrity of India] the security of the State, friendly relations with foreign States, public order, decency or morality, or involves defamation or contempt of court or is likely to incite the commission of any offence” can be denied a certificate.
With authority in the Government’s hands, Emergency remains one of the most heavily censored periods of Indian History. Gulzar’s Aandhi (1975) was banned during the National Emergency due to its similarity with Indira Gandhi’s life. Amrit Nahta’s Kissaa Kursee Kaa, a political satire faced the brunt of Censorship and the Emergency, as all the prints were destroyed on the orders of Vidya Charan Shukla, the Information and Broadcasting Minister at the time.
As noted by Devang Pathak, a freelance journalist working at the intersection of cinema and Censorship, “years of suppression and banning has now created a culture where not just politicians but also socio-cultural influencers feel entitled to voice their opposition and derail creative expression.”€ Continue Reading
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