Film Censorship

Film Censorship the act of examining films and removing parts which are considered offensive and unacceptable under government laws, rules and regulations and orders and instructions. In the process, some films may be banned and not permitted for release at all. In Bangladesh, film censorship is a pre-requisite of for release and exhibition of a film in public. The process is done under the Bangladesh Film Censorship Act 1977. The root of the Act was the Cinematography Act of 1918. It was amended and modified by the Government of Pakistan and after the independence in 1971, by the Government of Bangladesh formed and enacted the Film Censorship Act. The aim of the Cinematography Act, 1918 was to ensure that films were showed only after a certificate of approval issued by an appropriate authority and to ensure the security of the audience in the cinema halls. Under the provisions of the Act, Film Censor Councils were set up at calcutta, Bombay and Madras in 1920. These councils used to censor the films produced in British India and imported from foreign countries and issued certificates of release for public show. After the partition of 1947, the Government of Pakistan in Lahore, Karachi and DHAKA set up Censor Councils. In 1963, the Government of Pakistan enacted the Censorship and Film Act and framed the Censorship of Films Rules. Under the provisions of the Rules, the Central Film Censor Board and the Provincial Censor Boards for two provinces of Pakistan were constituted.

After the independence of Bangladesh, the Film Censor Act of 1963 was amended by President';s Order No. 41/1972 and the Film Censor Rules were introduced. In 1977, the government framed the Bangladesh Censorship of Film Rules, following which the film censor board was set up in Dhaka. These Rules were amended by an Ordinance in 1982.

The Censorship of Films Rules 1977 contains definitions and details of composition of the Film Censor Board and its tenure and responsibilities, constitution of the Appeal Committee, principles for the examination of films, fixation of fees for 35 millimeter and 16 millimeter films, examination of trailers and films brought by foreign missions, determinant factors of cutting parts of a film, proforma of official forms. In the light of the Rules, the ministry of information issued 8 instructions for the examination of films on 16 November1985. The instructions categorically started the pre-conditions to be fulfilled by a film for setting a censor certificate for public show.

According to the first six instructions, films should not (1) contain anything contrary to the spirit independence of Bangladesh and its integrity, sovereignty, law and order, values, social customs and traditions and the country's defense and security forces; (2) instigate enmity between Bangladesh and friendly foreign countries or incite hatred among the nations; (3) hurt the religious beliefs and sentiments of the people or cause communal enmity; (4) incite unethical sinful acts and debauchery, defile the established sense of morality and sanctity or have scenes of nudity, rape, sexual acts, obscene movements of limbs and vulgar dresses, kisses and acts of embracing; (5) have scenes of cruelty, serious oppression, repulsiveness and brutality; (6) show serious criminal activities that incite enthusiasm in the minds of the people, draw sympathy for the criminals and create an impression that such acts are recognised in the society. The seventh instruction says that no copycat film, indigenous or foreign, shall be given a certificate of release. Finally, the eighth instruction says that films that encourage the practice of dowry shall not be given certificate of release.

Between 1972 and 1996, about two hundred indigenous and foreign films have been proscribed in Bangladesh on different grounds. However, the certificate of release was ultimately issued to all the indigenous films. The permission for the public show of many films was suspended on the allegation that they showed uncensored obscene 'cut pieces'. But cut scenes inserted in them after the accord of release certificates and such films were confiscated from cinema houses. Later, the suspension was withdrawn under the coverage of special powers. Almost all the proscribed films were of poor standard and reflected perverted tastes. [Anupam Hayat]