This treatise on film censorship in Independent India is written after India’s Central Board of Film Certification completed 50 years of its chequered existence, having been established in 1951 as the Central Board of Film Censorship.
This ‘narrative historiograhy’ traces the evolution of censorship by discussing post-colonial India, delineating the theoretical bases of censorship claims and contentions and uncovering its many socio-political dimensions and complexities.
In India’s colonial period under British rule, film censorship evolved as an instrument for restraint in a particular domain of artistic creation, ostensibly on moral grounds but there was an overt political angle to it as well. The current book examines why that restraint continues even after Independence, how it has metamorphosed and with what characteristics. It looks into the rationale, implications and efficacy of film censorship as an institution after Independence.
Of late, the Censor Board has been criticised either for its lenience or intransigence. Censorship in India remains primarily an instrument of intervention by the State, defined and/or governed by the parameters of law.
The origins of cinema dates back to the 19th century, yet for all practical purposes, cinema is a 20th-century phenomenon – one that has revolutionised the concept and framework of human expression and communication. Initially the cinematograph was merely one more amusement among the many to be enjoyed, courtesy the itinerant or small-time entertainers who organised shows at temporary or make-shift venues, mostly at fair grounds. But when it outgrew its humble origins and shed its identity as an object of curiosity, the artisan system of manufacturing gave way to a large-scale and continuous system of production, of commerce and profit. Cinema graduated to a pure leisure industry, thriving on mass entertainment.
As a form of communication, cinema is characterised by its dependence on expensive technology more than on the medium. A scenario, or a shooting script, does not even qualify for cinematic creation, unless shot, edited and processed on a strip of celluloid. Thus, through the use of photographic and/or cinematographic technology, cinema has acquired the power of verisimilitude or the appearance of being true. This power is further fostered by use of plastic elements like image, movement, rhythm, dimension, scale, time, shade and tone. As cinema developed, speech, sound, music and colours were added.
The dream merchants seized upon the opportunity to build an edifice of a successful film industry steeped in a labyrinth of thrill and sensation. Through their activities, they established the fact that cinema can move an audience in such a way as no medium could. So cinema began to attract official attention. The administration, recognising its importance in indoctrination and elimination of opposition, realised its credibility. It decided to intervene and interfere, depending upon the social, political and legal climate of the country and on the priorities of the ruling government.
Penetrating the haze of bureaucratic manipulation, judicial laxity, vested interests and political or public pressure surrounding the film censorship debate, the author disagrees with the popular notion of censorship as a moral restraint. He reveals that the true impact of censorship lies in the propagation of political agendas. The overarching chronological schema that he devises outlines the intricate interplay of policies of governance and strictures of censorship.
This is a book meant essentially for those studying the mass media.
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