More than 6,500 industry artists demand repeal of amendment allowing central government to revoke film certificates

The Edward Theatre in Mumbai. Wikimedia Commons
06 July, 2021

On 18 June 2021, the central government sought public comments on the draft Cinematograph (Amendment) Bill 2021, which proposed to give the central government powers to ‘re-examine’ films already cleared by the Central Board of Film Certification, and to reverse the original decision of the board. Other amendments included introducing age-based certification and measures against film piracy.

In April 2021, the central government abolished the Film Certification Appellate Tribunal. The FCAT was a statutory body that came into existence in 1983 to provide an avenue for redressal for filmmakers unhappy with decisions made by the censor board. Several prominent figures in the film industry expressed their consternation.

On 2 July, around 6,500 signatories from the Hindi, Tamil, Malayalm, Marathi, Bengali, Kannada, Telugu and Assamese film industries, artists, theatre and collectives wrote to the ministry of information and broadcasting with suggestions towards the amendment of the Cinematograph Act. The signatories also urged the ministry to extend the deadline for discussions from the earlier date of 2 July to 18 July to facilitate further consultations on the proposed amendments. The statement is reproduced below.


Public Comments to the Cinematograph (Amendment) Bill, 2021 

Date: 02.07.21 

The suggestions towards the amendment of the Cinematograph Act have been submitted to the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting. At the time of this release the document had been endorsed by close to 6500 signatories across the Hindi, Tamil, Malayalam, Marathi, Bengali, Kannada, Telugu and Assamese film industries, amongst others. A first list of 3,583 signatories was mailed on 1st July 2021 along with the submissions, and an additional list of 2,911 signatories was sent on 2nd July 2021 (total of 6494 signatories as of 2.7.2021), even as more endorsements keep pouring in from across the country. 

The current deadline of 2nd July has meant that only a 14-day window was provided for public comments, as opposed to the minimum of 30 days as mandated by the Pre-legislative Consultation Policy, 2014 approved by the Union Cabinet Secretariat for public consultation on laws affecting fundamental rights and livelihoods of people). In view of this we have requested the Ministry to extend the deadline to at least the 18th of July 2021 to facilitate further consultations on the proposed amendments. This could enable more people, guilds and associations to formulate and submit informed suggestions. 


Some prominent signatories: 

Hindi: Mira Nair, Vishal Bhardwaj, Saaed Akhtar Mirza, Sudhir Mishra, Zoya Akhtar, Anubhav 

Sinha, Dibakar Bannerjee, Farhan Akhtar, Shabana Azmi, Abhishek Chaubey, Anil Mehta, Namrata Rao, Jabeen Merchant, Hansal Mehta, Vikramaditya Motwane, Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra, Anjum Rajabali, Shama Zaidi, Vijay Krishna Acharya, Sheeba Chaddha, Anurag Kashyap, Gauri Shinde, Aamir Bashir, Tanuja Chandra, Nandita Das, Adil Hussain, Gitanjali Rao, KU Mohanan, Priya Seth, Neeraj Ghaywan, Guneet Monga, Shyam Bora, Aradhana Seth

Tamil: Mani Ratnam, Vetri Maaran, Pa. Ranjith, Suriya, Karthik Subbaraj, Thiagrajan Kumararaja, Nalan Kumarasamy, Balaji T, Arun Vaidyanathan, C Premkumar, Arun Karthick, Leena Manimekalai, Bramma G, Kamalakannan, Vasudev Menon 

Malayalam: Dilesh Pothan, Lijo Jose Pellisery, Rajeev Ravi, Venu, Kamal KM, Resul Pookutty, Sanju Surendran, Fawzia Fathima, Geethu Mohandas, T.K. Rajeev Kumar, C. V. Sarathi, Mukesh R. Mehta, Sameer Thahir, Sunny Joseph, Madhu Neelakandan, Madhu Ambat, Dr. Biju 

Marathi: Umesh Vinayak Kulkarni, Chaitanya Tamhane, Renuka Shahane, Tushar Paranjpe, Avinash Deshpande 

Bengali: Aparna Sen, Suman Mukhopadhyay, Supriyo Sen 

Suhasini Maniratnam, Vinod Raja, Gautham 

Assamese: Jahnu Barua, Bhaskar Haarika, Reema Borah Telugu: Ashwin Gangaraju
Gujarati: Sanjiv Shah
Kannada: Raghu Shivamogga, Jayathirtha B.V. 

Documentary: Surabhi Sharma, Samira Jain, Nishtha Jain, Sanjay Kak, Priya Sen, Madhushree Dutta, Paromita Vohra, RV Ramani, Sunanda Bhat, Priya Thuvassery, Navroze Contractor, Samarth Mahanjan, Pankaj Rishi Kumar, Avijit Mukul Kishore, Reena Mohan, Vani Subramanian, Prantik Narayan Basu, Ekta M, Sapna Moti Bhavnani, Lipika Singh Darai 

Theatre: Sanjana Kapoor, Anamika Haksar, Abhishek Majumdar, Lillete Dubey, Dolly Thakore, Rohini Hathangadi, Arundhati Nag, Jyoti Dogra, A Mangai, Sunil Shanbagh, S. Raghunandana 

Collectives/societies/associations: Hali Welly (President, Film Federation of Arunachal Pradesh), Kamal (Chairman, Kerala State Chalachitra Academy), Teshee Venkatesh (President, Karnataka Film Directors Association, KANFIDA), Salam Rajesh (Vice-President, Manipur Film Society), Deepak K. Dutta (General Secretary, Producers Council Assam), Women in Cinema Collective (WCC), Ektara Collective, Manishi Jani (President, Gujarati Lekhak Mandal), Indian Cinema Foundation, H. Shaji (Deputy Director, International Film Festival of Kerala), Rakesh (General Secretary, Indian People Theatre Association IPTA), 

Other Artists: Orijit Sen, V Jeevananthan, Raghu Dixit, Ankur Tewari, 

We would also like to acknowledge the many individuals including IT professionals, teachers, bankers, students, lawyers, and members of the civil society who have endorsed the submissions, making this a truly public document.

At a time when films and filmmaking are trying to adapt to the uncertainty brought about by the pandemic, it is a true mark of the spirit of solidarity to see so many diverse filmmakers, technicians and actors come together at such short notice. It is also a testament to the fact that the fundamental right to free speech and expression remains a cherished and deeply guarded right. Veteran filmmakers, across regions, stand shoulder to shoulder with young filmmakers, as do so many lovers of cinema from various walks of life. Here’s hoping that we continue this spirited engagement with the process.

Enclosed: (1) Submission of recommendations to the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, including the first list of signatories (dated 1.7.2021), (2) Additional list of signatories (as on 2.7.2021). – Accessible here.

Read Puja Sen’s piece on how the end of the Film Certification Appellate Tribunal leaves filmmakers even more powerless before the censors here.