Why has Television Channels said No to ‘A’ listed films?
We call India a Democracy, where every individual has equal right to put forth their opinions. But has anyone mentioned that Indian Democracy doesn’t take responsibility for everyone’s voices to be heard? Rather, Indian society ensures in every possible way to silence any radical voices that may erupt. This aspect has blown up in a fresh way when four leading Television channel broadcasters have unanimously decided to not purchase ‘A’ listed films despite film makers assuring to edit the objectionable scenes and making it fit for public viewing. This has come as a shock to film makers who have been radical and off beat in their style of film making and have dealt largely with controversial issues in their films.
Ever since the news of this came out in the open, there has been a great deal of hue and cry about the ridiculous decision of the channels. The reason why this decision has precipitated is because of the low viewer-ship of ‘A’ listed films. They are slotted to be telecast after 11pm and advertisers mostly pull out of funding ‘A’ listed films. This is not only a reason to accuse Channel Heads and Advertisers but gives us a peek into the still existing conservative mentality of Indian society which points fingers at issues without respecting the sensibilities of the matter or even understanding it at all.
Channel Broadcasters have taken this matter a step ahead by making it clear that in case they buy a film before its release and then the film doesn’t succeed in getting cleared from Censor Board, the channel will terminate their existing contract with immediate effect.
This entire decision has been preposterous, to say the least. A large part of aesthetic, intelligent cinema has been prohibited altogether for general public viewing. The entire obsession with being passed with a ‘U’ certificate by Censor Board has gone overboard this time. This decision has been met with significant amount of rage especially from filmmakers who have worked on their separate, independent genre of cinema which has largely been excluded from mainstream Bollywood. This decision will put an abrupt end to their films and hence they will remain unknown to a large part of population who cannot afford to visit multiplexes for the films. The main intent of these film makers is not educate the already educated, middle class bred, moneyed people, but more to reach out and communicate with those who are the lesser privileged, uneducated and blindly abide by tradition without having the urge to logically analyze it or question it.
Going by this decision a large part of Indian population will be reserved from watching intelligent, educative cinema which has a greater purpose than entertaining the audience. This point in the entire debate has been met with foolish replies like, ‘Why would the issue of homosexuality bother those who can’t earn 2 square of meals a day?’ Just because someone cannot earn himself and his family, does that take away the right of intellectual exchange from him? Or is intellect an attribute reserved only for the rich? ‘A’ listed cinema is not porn. ‘A’ listed cinema can be anything which deals with controversial issues extending from homosexuality to religious riots. Cinema is a crucial way of educating the audiences, making them aware of their rights, duties, needs and desires. And holding back from the audiences, cinema of any kind is a violation of their basic rights.
Perhaps the best, the most artistic and the finest of the films in Indian cinema which have received awards at National and International Film festivals have been listed as ‘A’ by the Censor Board. Satyajit Ray’s Charulata, Guru Dutt’s Sahib, Biwi Aur Ghulam, Mirch Masala, Arth, Bazaar, have been champions of art and fine films in Bollywood, and they have all been ‘A’ listed by Censor Board. But they are films of admirable stature and are few of Bollywood’s classic must watch films. Television is the biggest platform for a film maker to pass his work to his audiences. This drastic decision was absolutely uncalled for and not meticulously thought out.
Sony Entertainment Television which is known for screening films despite their controversial content as opposed to Doordarshan, have also changed their company policy to the same recently and have rejected films from Bhatt Camp specifically according to sources. Rather they have mentioned that even if films are suitably edited to ‘U/A’ they will still not be able to screen the film on their channel.
This has raised quite a few issues. Why are sexually inclined films not fit for public consumption? The excessive hush-hush attitude towards such films doesn’t create a more ‘sober’ society, rather a more pervert one due to a lack of free mixing and openness to discuss such issues with a greater clarity and sensitivity. Shunning this away into obscurity would only lead to greater curiosity on part of the audiences. Channel Heads have taken great pride in their decision but they have in reality curtailed the rights of a film maker to create what he wants, as per his free will. Now film makers will have to consider their content because of a lame decision like this. Moreover, even producers will refuse to buy films with controversial content because it will obviously garner them less revenue.
The maximum sufferers of this will be Indie cinema makers who have to suffer the worst of this ordeal. Their offbeat cinema is anyway less popular in the multiplexes and this move will kill its television audiences too. Film makers like Anurag Kashyap and Onir who have a history of making films about controversial topics are sure to condemn this move of the television channels. The double standards of the Indian society which draws lines of soberness and aesthetic value in turn breeds conservatism by taking pride in ridiculous decisions as these.
Turning a blind eye to such problems and prohibiting them to reach out to people will only lead to a large part of the Indian population remaining uneducated and resistant to change and new ideas. Moreover it is a matter of utter shame that the same Indie cinema which has been showered with awards internationally shall be kept in wraps and not screened on television in India. Art has been held synonymous with fostering change, and India by holding closely its ‘tradition’ is rejecting new forms of art through decisions like this. Socially speaking, what kind of democracy do we live in?