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Central Board of Film Certification

The Indian film industry has been thriving for over a century, with Bollywood producing the most number of films each year. However, before a film can be released to the public, it must be certified by the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC). This regulatory body is tasked with ensuring that all films shown in public venues or on television meet strict guidelines and are suitable for general audiences. In this blog post, we’ll take a closer look at the CBFC: what it is, how it works, and its impact on the Indian film industry.

I. Introduction

A. Definition of Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC)

The Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC), commonly known as the Censor Board, is a governing body that regulates film certification in India. Established under the Cinematograph Act of 1952, the CBFC’s primary role is to rate and screen films, trailers, documentaries, and theater-based advertising for public viewing. To ensure that films released in cinemas and on television in India are suitable for public exhibition, they need to obtain certification from the CBFC. The CBFC has four certificates, namely U, A, UA, and S, that classify films based on their content and suitability for different audiences. The CBFC operates through nine regional offices in India and functions under the guidance of a chairperson and 25 administrative members. Although the CBFC’s decisions have been controversial at times, it remains an essential and influential institution in the Indian film industry.

B. Importance of CBFC in film industry in India

The Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) plays a crucial role in the Indian film industry. It is the governing body that certifies films for public exhibition based on their content and ratings. This certification ensures that films are appropriate for certain age groups and are not harmful to the public or society. The CBFC ensures that films do not contain excessive violence, nudity, or profanity, making them more suitable for family viewership. Moreover, movie producers and filmmakers need to obtain certification from the CBFC before releasing their movies, which ensures that they comply with the country’s cultural sensitivities and respect its traditions. Without the CBFC, there would be rampant production of movies with inappropriate content, leading to societal unrest and moral decay. In conclusion, the CBFC is vital to the Indian film industry as it helps regulate the industry’s content, maintain cultural sensitivities, and uphold moral values for better public viewership.

C. Overview of CBFC certification process

The CBFC certification process is an important step for any film that wishes to be publicly exhibited in India. Every application to certify a film has to be made in writing and submitted to the regional officer of the concerned area. The process involves a careful review of the film to ensure that it adheres to the certification guidelines laid out by the CBFC. These guidelines include restrictions on anti-social activities, criminal acts, violence, and substance abuse. The CBFC issues four types of certificates: U, UA, A, and S, each with its own set of guidelines. Filmmakers may appeal decisions made by the CBFC through the Film Certification Appellate Tribunal (FCAT), although this process was recently scrapped by the Indian government. While the CBFC has been associated with a number of scandals, its guiding principles are to ensure healthy public entertainment and education, along with transparency in the certification process.

II. CBFC Certification Ratings

A. Types of CBFC ratings

In India, the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) categorizes films based on four classifications- U, U/A, A, and S. The ‘U’ certification approves films that are suitable for all ages and may contain mild content like profanity, crude humor, and mild violence. The ‘U/A’ certification implies that the film can be viewed by children under the age of 12 but with parental guidance, and may include moderate violence, coarse language, and mature themes. The ‘A’ certification restricts films to adult audiences only and may contain stronger violence, language, and sexual content with full nudity. Lastly, the ‘S’ certification is rare and only allowed for specialized audiences like educational institutions and film festivals. The CBFC board reserves the right to refuse certification to any film that might violate Indian federal law or incite communal violence. Filmmakers must submit their films to CBFC for certification before public exhibition on any platform or in any venue.

2. UA

The UA rating by Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) denotes unrestricted viewing, but with a parental guidance advisory for children under 12 years of age. This means that children can watch the movie, but parental guidance is required to understand the content. Films that are certified with UA include moderate adult themes, moderate to strong violence, moderate sexual scenes, and muted abusive language. CBFC guidelines are strict about not allowing any content that insults or degrades any race, religion, or social group, including any sexual violence. Even minor suggestive scenes are not allowed in UA-rated films. The ratings assure filmmakers that their movie’s content will reach the intended audience without offending them. It ensures that sensitive topics are handled with care, and children are not exposed to inappropriate content. The UA rating is essential for viewers to choose between suitable and unsuitable content, making CBFC certification an important element in the Indian film industry. 

B. Description of each rating and its content guidelines

The Board of Film Certification (CBFC) issues four different certifications for films in India: U, U/A, A, and S. Films that are certified U are fit for unrestricted public exhibition and can feature universal themes like family, romance, sci-fi, and action. These films may also include some mild violence, but it should not be prolonged. Mild sexual scenes are also allowed, but without any traces of nudity or sexual detail. Films with the U/A certification, on the other hand, can contain moderate adult themes that are not strong in nature and can be watched by a child of age under parental guidance. These films contain moderate to strong violence, moderate sexual scenes (traces of nudity and moderate sexual detail can be found), frightening scenes, or muted abusive language. Films with the A certification are restricted to adults only and can contain violence, explicit and strong sexual scenes, and abusive language, but words which insult or degrade any religion, race, or social group are not allowed. The S certification is strictly available to specialized audiences, such as industry professionals. 

2. UA

The rating issued by the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) in India allows films to be publicly exhibited with some restrictions. This rating suggests that the film has moderate adult themes that are not strong in nature and can be watched by a child under parental guidance. These films contain moderate to strong violence, moderate sexual scenes (traces of nudity and moderate sexual detail can be found), frightening scenes, or muted abusive language. The films with this rating can be made for families, but the content should be restricted centrally by the parents or guardians. The CBFC’s decision of certification for a film is based on the guidelines it has established and is not influenced by any outside pressure, as it is an autonomous body regulated by the government. The CBFC’s aim is to certify films that promote healthy public entertainment and education while also ensuring that they do not contain any content that could cause unrest or provoke anti-social activities. 

III. CBFC Certification Process

A. Application for film certification

If you’re a filmmaker in India, then you should know the procedure for applying for film certification with the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC). It is mandatory for films to be certified by the CBFC before they can be publicly exhibited in India. To apply for certification, you will need to submit your application to the concerned regional office where your film was produced. The process can take up to 20-25 minutes, during which you will discuss your requirements with a dedicated account manager. Once your requirements are understood, the CBFC will review your film and rate it accordingly. The rating will determine the content guidelines for your film. After the certification process is complete, you will receive your certifications and registrations directly to your email and doorstep. Always remember, the CBFC is a crucial body in the Indian film industry, and applying for film certification is an important step for every filmmaker. 

B. Jurisdiction of various regional offices

The Central Board of Film Certification operates from its headquarters in Mumbai, with nine regional offices across India. The jurisdiction of each regional office covers specific states and union territories. For instance, the Chennai regional office manages film certification in the state of Tamil Nadu as well as the union territory of Puducherry. On the other hand, the Delhi regional office manages film certification in states like Haryana, Punjab, and Uttar Pradesh as well as the union territories of Chandigarh and Delhi. If a film is produced in a particular region, the application for certification should be submitted to the concerned regional office only. The location of the producers’ association council and the production office of the film processing company are key factors in determining the place of production of films. As such, filmmakers must ensure that they submit their applications to the appropriate regional offices to obtain certification for their films. 

C. Difference between long and short films

When comes to film certification, understanding the difference between a long film and a short film is important. In the celluloid version, a film that is longer than 2000 meters (35mm) is considered long, while a video version that is longer than 72 minutes is considered long. Any film that is shorter than the above-mentioned length or duration is classified as a short film. This differentiation is important because it helps the Central Board of Film Certification maintain uniformity in the classification of films. Furthermore, the location of the producer’s association council or the head office of the film processing company defines the jurisdiction of various regional offices. Thus, filmmakers must submit their applications for film certification to the concerned regional office where the movie was produced. Understanding these details is crucial for filmmakers looking to navigate the certification process.

D. Editing and alteration of CBFC certified films

Once film has been certified by the CBFC, any editing or alteration to it must be approved by the board. Each member of the CBFC must submit a written report detailing recommendations for edits or deletions after the initial screening. Any alterations must be made in accordance with the CBFC’s content guidelines, which are designed to ensure that films meet the board’s standards for healthy and responsible public entertainment. Despite this formal process, controversy sometimes arises over cuts or bans of films. These decisions may be challenged in court, especially if they are perceived to infringe upon freedom of expression. Bribery is also a concern in the certification process, as filmmakers may bribe CBFC officials to obtain a lower rating or expedite the certification process. Overall, the CBFC plays a crucial role in regulating the film industry in India and ensuring that films are suitable for public exhibition. 

E. Certification of video and CD versions of films

Cert of video and CD versions of films is an important aspect of the CBFC’s duties. Unlike U and U/A certified movies, films with V/U and V/UA certification can be re-certified for video and TV viewing. This means that any film that is over 72 minutes long for video or 2000 metres in celluloid form is considered a long film, while anything under those specifications is considered a short film. Furthermore, any film produced in a particular region should be submitted to its concerned regional office only, and applications for certification can be made under the jurisdiction of the various regional offices. It is important to follow these regulations, as any alterations to a certified film must be advised by the CBFC. By adhering to these guidelines, filmmakers can ensure that their films get certified and are able to be viewed by audiences in India. 

IV. Controversies and Scandals Involving CBFC

A. Bribery of CBFC officials for certification

Unfortunately, bribery and corruption seem to be prevalent in the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) in India. There have been instances where CBFC officials demand bribes from film producers to certify their films quickly. In 2014, the Board’s CEO, Rakesh Kumar, was arrested for allegedly asking for a bribe through an agent to expedite the certification process. The arrested agent was not an authorized or certified middleman, but he allegedly demanded a bribe of Rs. 70,000 from a producer to get a regional film cleared. Corruption is a significant problem, and many filmmakers pay hefty commissions to unofficial agents to avoid delays and get their films certified promptly. The CBFC has been working on introducing more transparency into the certification process by shifting it online. However, some producers still prefer to use unauthorized agents to evade bureaucracy, negotiate edits and ratings, and expedite the certification process. Unfortunately, corruption has somewhat undermined the credibility of the CBFC, and it’s high time that they take corrective action to tackle this issue head-on. 

B. Controversial cuts and bans of films

Contial cuts and bans of films have been a common occurrence in India, with various films facing censorship for reasons ranging from political interference to cultural sensitivities. The Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) is responsible for regulating films and determining what is suitable for public consumption. However, there have been instances where the CBFC’s decisions have been questioned, with many filmmakers feeling that they are being subjected to unreasonable censorship. Some films have faced outright bans, making it impossible for them to reach their intended audience. The bans have been attributed to a range of factors, including religious and political tensions. However, it is essential to ensure that censorship does not restrict artistic freedom and expression. It is crucial to strike a balance between the need to protect public sensibilities and maintain creative freedom. 

C. Political interference in CBFC decisions

Despite CBFC’s aim of ensuring healthy public entertainment and education and using modern technology to make the certification process and board activities transparent to filmmakers, the media, and the public, political interference in the board’s decisions has been an issue in recent years. CBFC chairperson, Leela Samson, resigned in 2015 after the decision to refuse certification of the film, Messenger of God, was overturned by an appellate tribunal. Samson was replaced by Pahlaj Nihalani, whose affiliation triggered a wave of additional board resignations. The board was also criticised for ordering the screen time of two kissing scenes in the James Bond film Spectre to be cut by half for release. The situation in India’s film industry continues to be problematic when it comes to censorship and political interference, with filmmakers often facing a scuffle with the board and political groups looking to suppress content that goes against their ideologies. This has, in turn, stifled creative freedom and made it challenging for Indian filmmakers to exhibit their work without being subjected to cuts or bans.