Film Censorship in India: The Urgent Need For Reform By Mukul Mudgal

The following is an excerpt from the 2013 Report Of The Committee Of Experts To Examine Issues Of Certification Under the Cinematograph Act, 1952, chaired by the author.

Cinema is an artistic expression of ideas, stories and often opinions, sometimes inspired by reality occasionally set to music, designed to enthrall, enchant, or simply to entertain. There are few other mediums of communication that can claim rival levels of pervasive influence and presence in our daily lives.

History shows that films have sparked off political debate and threatened governments, heralded social change causing society to deviate from age-old dogma and also sent real life lovers to their death in their misplaced hope of emulating the classic romances. It is perhaps in salute to such impelling powers of persuasion that it is the only form of art, deemed fit to be regulated by an Act of Parliament.

The present Cinematograph Act was enacted in the year 1952. Cinema has undergone a radical change since. The medium of cinema, the tools and technology associated with it and even its cherished audience have metamorphosed through time. Upon this Committee falls the task of reviewing and recommending legislation, which will regulate, certify and license facets of this ever changing and precocious art form. We have endeavored to accomplish this task to the best of our ability.

From the Preliminary Statement of the Report Of The Committee Of Experts To Examine Issues Of Certification Under the Cinematograph Act, 1952 (28th September 2013, chaired by the author (the “Mudgal Committee”) paras. 1 and 2. [Editors’ Note: The committee was tasked with recommending ways in which India could transition from censoring films to certifying them much like the Motion Picture Association of America rates films by categories of viewers.  The author, a former Chief Justice of the High Court of Haryana and Punjab, was the Chairperson of that committee.]

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Unfortunately for India’s film industry, the change in name of India’s film censorship body from the “Central Board of Film Censors” to the “Central Board of Film Certification” (“CBFC”) did not improve the film certification process. The Board continues to function as a censorship board and not as a certification board.

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Guest Editor’s Column By Lalit Bhasin

It is a pleasant task to write the Guest Editorial for this issue of India Law News (ILN) on the important and significant topic of the Hollywood—Bollywood relationship and the potential for growth. The two largest democracies in the world are also producers of the largest numbers of films. Hollywood is definitely the Big Brother, but India has improved significantly in terms of not just the numbers but also in terms of quality, content, technology, entertainment, vast reach in overseas markets, employment generation and financial growth. Hollywood and Bollywood need to develop compatibility and there are indications that mutual appreciation of each other’s strengths is being recognized.

Writing this column has not been difficult but finding the right authors has been an uphill task for me, as I wanted the best—those who know the subject and have intensely studied the subject matter of their respective contributions.

The Honorable Justice Mukul Mudgal, former Chief Justice of the Punjab and Haryana High Court has been a familiar name in sports and entertainment laws. He chaired the Committee Of Experts To Examine Issues Of Certification Under the Cinematograph Act, 1952, (the “Mudgal Committee”) appointed by the Ministry of information and Broadcasting to review the entire Cinematography Act, 1952.  I had the privilege of being a Member of this Committee. We travelled the length and breadth of the country to have inputs from various stakeholders like producers, directors, writers, artists, NGOs and the media. It is high time the Government has a serious look at the crucial recommendations made by the Committee. Justice Mudgal graciously agreed to write an article for this issue on the work of the Committee and we open with his article.

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Certification in India – A Tight-Rope Walk By Leela Samson

Conceptually, the Central Board of Film Certification of India is envisioned as an autonomous body that comprises of a group of professionals from different walks of life—allied and related to cinema—who are brought together to make the policies that the CBFC then implements. While the constitutional status of CBFC is that of a subordinate office under the administrative control of the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting, the functioning and the decision making regarding film certification must be independent of any Government or non-governmental influence. It is the bounden duty of the Chairperson and the Board to ensure that this independence of the CBFC is not only maintained, but is also perceived as being maintained for the body is under the constant scrutiny of local and international media and any perceived interference in the working of the Board is detrimental to the image of the Government.

To achieve greater transparency and more objectivity in the working of CBFC, it is crucial that the Board Members, Advisory Panel Members and the officers of the Board are selected with utmost care. Greater representation of the film industry on the Board will enable a form of self-governance that will go a long way to minimize the confrontation between the two that had for long been the nature of their interaction. However, it is not just industry insiders who must come on the Board. Educated, professionals of integrity with backgrounds in film, media, culture, the arts, science, journalism, law, social work, literature and education are also important. I believe that the CBFC has had wonderful people of this nature on its Boards since inception and that is why films of every nature have flourished in the country. We had such individuals on the Board in my time as Chairperson as well, who took their appointment seriously and attempted to make a difference to film culture and the institutional processes that oversee one of the most powerful mediums of modernity.

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A Sea Change in India’s Film Industry: New Opportunities For Hollywood By Anand Desai

India’s entertainment industry has always been open to creative ideas from the West in general and the United States, in particular.  Indeed, the focus of Indian cinema on Indian cultural preferences has not stopped Bollywood from sometimes openly mimicking Hollywood films, TV shows, and music. In recent years, however, that interest has included business models, as well, which has led Hollywood studios to pay greater attention to India. These Hollywood studios have recognized the vast potential in Indian markets for Bollywood product.

Most large Hollywood studios, including Disney, Fox, Sony, and Warner, have not only set up distribution offices in India, but have moved to producing Indian films.  They have done so by partnering with Indian studios either through co-productions or formal corporate acquisitions like Disney-UTV. For example, Disney has started funding the production of Bollywood films. Fox Star has produced almost 30 Bollywood (Hindi language) films, as well as a few “Kollywood” (Tamil language) and “Mollywood” (Malayalam language) films, as well. (Other Hollywood inspired names for India’s prolific and varied regional cinema, include “Ollywood” for the Oriya language, and “Tollywood” for the Telegu language films industries.)

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The Need for a Motion Picture Co-Production Treaty between India and the United States By Ameet B. Naik

The motion picture industries of India and the United States have had a long and fruitful relationship going back to the middle of the last century.  Notable recent Bollywood movies shot in the U.S. include Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna (“Never Say Goodbye”) (2006), Dhoom 3 (“Blast 3”) (2013), Dostana (“Camaraderie” or “Buddies”) (2008) and New York (2009).  All topped box office charts in India. Similarly, well-known Hollywood movies such as  Life of Pi (2012), Slumdog Millionaire (2008), Bride & Prejudice, (2004) Zero Dark Thirty (2012), the Best Marigold Hotel movies (2012 and 2015) and many others dating back to the 1980s—for example, A Passage to India (1984), Octopussy (1983) and Gandhi (1982)—were all shot entirely or in part in India. Dubbed versions of Hollywood films in regional Indian languages have also gained popularity. Further, there is a significant growth in the number of VFX (computerized visual effects) companies thriving in India due, in part, to Hollywood studios outsourcing VFX work for their films to Indian companies. Indian VFX companies like Prime Focus have been instrumental in the production of several Hollywood films, including Avatar (2009). United States-based companies continue to recognize the benefits of production in India given India’s diverse filming locations, and a skilled yet economical labor force.

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Scope For Further Promoting A Budding Relationship between the Film Industries in the United States and India By Uday Singh

According to the Motion Picture Dist. Association (India) Pvt. Ltd. (MPDA), the local representative office of the Motion Picture Association, India is already the fifth largest international box office market in the world after China, Japan, France and the United Kingdom. See, MPAA 2014 Theatrical Market Statistics. (The Motion Picture Association is a trade association representing six major international producers and distributors of films, home entertainment and television programmers: Paramount Pictures Corporation, Sony Pictures Entertainment Inc., Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation, Universal City Studios LLLP, The Walt Disney Studios and Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.)  This growth needs to be fueled by policies which create a favorable legal and business environment for the development of Intellectual Property Rights in copyright industries while facilitating sharing of global best practices and engagement with the International copyright community. The India-US joint statement in early 2015, “Shared Effort, Progress For All” (in Hindi “Saanjha Prayaas Sabka Vikas”) reinforces the need for continued dialogue and cooperation between copyright industries and the Government of India to build an Intellectual Property Rights regime that encourages development and innovation in the Indian media and entertainment industry.

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Distribution of Content on Digital Media in India: Key Tax Considerations By Samira Varanasi, Ranjana Adhikari & Rajesh Simhan

We live in an age which can arguably be best described as the age of the internet; and India is not far behind the rest of the world in embracing this revolution. Growth in internet users in India was expected to reach 269 million by mid-2015.  In India, the growth in the number of internet users has primarily been driven by the penetration of internet enabled mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets and by the growing outreach of 3G. While India can do with better connection speeds, there has been a sustained increase of the average connection speeds.  (FICCI-KPMG Indian Media & Entertainment Industry reports that greater than 4 mbps speeds grew 100 per cent and greater than 10 mbps grew at 200 per cent year-on-year). Some telecom service providers such as Reliance are in fact looking to launch 4G services this year and the sales of 4G smartphones have also increased. With the availability of high speed internet and consequently, the consumption of internet based services in India is only expected to increase in the coming years.

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Visa and Tax Travails of Foreign Artists in India By Poorvi Chothani

Engaging foreign nationals in the entertainment industry has been a long time favorite with Bollywood producers. Earlier, foreign nationals were engaged as supporting performers in dance sequences or as cabaret dancers often referred to as “item girls,” a term that is not intended to be pejorative. Foreign nationals have also been involved in Bollywood as technicians and cinematographers.  As the Indian entertainment industry, with an increasing global reach, has evolved, there has been an influx of artists including actors from overseas, TV personalities, dancers, musicians, international singers and many more.   According to some industry opinions, foreign actors are attractive because they (1) offer fresh faces and international personalities, (2) command lower fees  (3) do not have impossibly busy schedules, (4) offer the mystique and charm of being “foreign,” and (5) foreign women actors tend to be less inhibited than local ones about risqué scenes.

Whatever may be the reason, Bollywood is welcoming the increased number of foreign artists into its fold, many even from directly across the border, despite strained political relationships.   In this article we will explore how these individuals may be authorized to work in India. Continue reading