There is a thing that always shows up before we watch any movie. Its presence is so ubiquitous that we hardly ever notice it. But the thing is, if is it not there, we would not be able to watch any film. It is that important. I am talking about the Central Board Film Certificate. We see it in all films but have you ever wondered and looked at in detail at it? I always look at the certificate and there are some things which I have been wanting to know since ages as to what exactly do they mean. This week, I finally started doing research on the film certificate and discovered some new things, of which I had no idea. I became like Shashi of English Vinglish. And, it is befitting that Pankaja Thakur's moniker is similar to mine.
In India, the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) lays down the guidelines to be followed for certifying films. The Board was called the Central Board of Film Censors before 1983. That is why on the certificate of films released before 1983, we see that name instead of the present day name. Actually, in 1983, a number of rules were changed including the addition of two new categories of film rating.
Guide — 1975
Let us look at the film certificate of Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge, which is one of the clearest certificates, that I found—simple and clean. Notice the word "फीचर". The CBFC defines feature films as any fictionalized story film in 35 mm or other gauges or on other video formats. It further categorizes them as long films, shorts films, advertisement films, newsreels, and documentaries. A long film is a film with a length exceeding 2000 meters in 35 mm or corresponding length in other gauges. A short film means a film with a length up to 2000 meters in length in 35 mm or corresponding length in other gauges. As we know, length of a film is measured in meters. Going back to the word feature, it is because of this that when national film awards are announced, we see the terms, such as 'National Award for Best Hindi Feature Film'.
Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge — 1995
Notice the words Part 1. The Part 1 of the certificate shows that the film has been certified by the CBFC with a particular rating. Also, the Board mentions that any film that is certified, has to attach the certificate always. Even film trailers have to show the certificate with them. That explains why we see these certificates in cinema halls when we watch trailers of new movies. There is another rule which I don't think anyone actually follows. The rule says that the certificate has to be shown for a minimum duration of 10 seconds. I did a quick check on some of the films. Most films on average show about 5-6 seconds. I did not come across a film (yet) that depicted it for 10 seconds.
As I mentioned Part 1 of the certificate is about the ratings. Before 1983, there were only two categories of certificate — "U" (unrestricted public exhibition), and "A" (restricted to adult audiences), but two other categories were added in 1983 — "UA" (unrestricted public exhibition subject to parental guidance for children below the age of twelve) and "S" (restricted to specialized audiences, such as doctors or scientists). Yes, most of us are aware of them, but I was always curious to know what do the Hindi translations stand for, like "U" is actually written with "अ", and "A" is written with "व". Here are the translations:
"U" — "अ" — अनिर्बन्धित सार्वजनिक प्रदर्षन
"A" — "व"— वयस्क दर्षकों के लिए निर्बन्धित
"UA" — "अव" — अनिर्बन्धित सार्वजनिक प्रर्दषन के लिए किन्तु 12 वर्ष से कम आयु के बालक/बालिका को माता-पिता के मार्गदर्षन के साथ फिल्म देखने की चेतावनी के साथ
"S" — "एस"— किसी विषिष्ठ व्यक्तियों के लिए निर्बन्धित
It is interesting that "S" rating is not translated like "U" and "A", and "U" becomes "A" in Hindi.
Now, some more trivia. See the triangle in Guide's certificate or in Cocktail's. Why is a triangle shown on some certificates and not on some? This is because of other rule and it is here Part II comes into place. A triangle means that some portions of the film have been cut and removed. Part II contains details of the the length of the excisions and modifications, and this part is not required to be shown in the certificate.
Cocktail — 2012
The interesting part is that we can go and search on the CBFC's website as to what exactly has been removed. So, in Cocktail, the following changes have been done. Seriously, they muted awesome in bed (!!)
The website is not very user friendly and like any government website is too slow, but it is a great place to see such information. The number of cuts in The Dirty Picture make up many lists, and even a film, such as Ek Main Aur Ekk Tu, has many cuts mentioned on the website.
Also, a film certificate is valid for a period of ten years, and after that is has to be re-certified. For example, look at the certificate of Yash Chopra's Daag. The word re-certifcation is written on the certificate. The film was released in 1973, but the certificate's validity is 1983-1993. The design of the certificate has changed over the years, and presently, we only see the date of issue in certificates. I would want to research a film that was certified earlier but was refused a re-certificate. It would be interesting to know such cases.
Daag — 1983
These days a lot of text is being written in the certificate. It is difficult to read the certificate even for five-six seconds, which defeats the purpose. Here are some certificates of films over the years.
Chalti Ka Naam Gaadi — 1969
Anand — 1970
Guddi — 1981
Maine Pyar Kiya — 1989
Lamhe — 1991
Dil Chahta Hai — 2001
If anyone is interested, they can read more here.
A few days ago, the CBFC CEO was arrested on charges of corruption. If we read the rules of certification, we see that these are so subjective, that they can easily be used for harassment of filmmakers. I still do not understand why did they blur Rani's (Kangana Ranaut) bra in the washroom scene with Vijaylakshmi (Lisa Haydon) in Queen, and later, in the film, they did not blur when she is in the hostel in Amsterdam. Sometimes, the cuts spoil the entire scene, like they did in Vicky Donor in a scene of Dr. Chaddha (Anu Kapoor). At one point, we talk about freedom of expression, and at the other point, we censor anything that could be offensive. Ask Anurag Kashyap and how his first film never got released because of problem with the CBFC. But again, I don't entirely blame the board. Our country runs through political violence, and everyone wants to extract a pound of flesh. Just look at what Raj Thackeray did when Wake Up Sid used the word Bombay, instead of Mumbai. I predict another controversy that is waiting to happen. When Bombay Velvet is about to release, Thackeray's goons will be out again. But still, some of the archaic rules of the CBFC can surely be modified. Anyway, as if my saying is going to make any difference. It is so fascinating to know about the certificate that we see in every film, and yet don't know much about it. Some day, I want to become a part of the film-making process. At least, now, I can help in providing information about the certificate :)
Watch this lovely, lovely trailer of English Vinglish where Shashi reads the CBFC certificate.
Dialogue of the Day:
— Kamaljeet Saran, Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna