India’s Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) told Mumbai Mirror that it has decided to stop re-certifying A-rated films for TV, thereby making them ineligible for television screening.
It’s a decision that is now threatening to derail several top-of-the-line production houses which make a chunk of their profits from the advance sale of satellite rights.
A number of big-ticket films, including Aamir Khan’s home production Delhi Belly , Anurag Kashyap’s Gangs of Wasseypur (parts 1 and 2) and Vikram Bhatt’s Hate Story are waiting for CBFC clearance. The satellite rights of many of these films have already been sold to broadcasters for big money.
When contacted, the censor board’s CEO Pankaja Thakur confirmed that the re-certification had stopped already:
We’re no longer modifying and certifying films to make them suitable for TV viewing, she said. This was not a part of the Cinematograph Act. We would like it to be included in the Act, but that is up to Parliament.
The controversy began last month when objections were raised with the manner in which The Dirty Picture had been modified for TV, with a case filed against its telecast.
The CBFC then told the film producers that they should specify to TV channels that all modified A-rated films should only be shown only after 11 pm. This suggestion was accepted for The Dirty Picture , but the producers of Jannat 2, fearing a loss of revenue in satellite rights, challenged the CBFC’s guideline in the Film Certification Appellate Tribunal (FCAT). The FCAT ruled in the film producer Mahesh Bhatt’s favour, and told CBFC that it could not decide the slotting of films on TV.
Thakur explained that the CBFC were miffed at not being able to inflict transmission times and had decided to work to rule:
The modification of A-rated films was a facility that the CBFC was extending to the film industry to help them show their movies on TV. If we were doing something extra for them, we had a right to attach certain riders to it. Since this 11 pm condition is unacceptable, we have decided to go strictly by the original Act. We want the role of the CBFC to be redefined. If we are supposed to modify or re-certify films for TV viewing, it should be specified in the Act.
The film industry is now starting to panic. Insiders say that satellite rights of a movie constitute nearly 40 per cent of its gross earnings. A producer said:
If the film cannot be telecast, won’t the channel want a refund? And hereafter, won’t Adult films have no buyers whatsoever?
Mahesh Bhatt added:
This is a very serious matter. The film industry will have to lock horns with the government. We might require judicial intervention, or the entire economics of the film industry will go topsy turvy.