The on-going row over the delayed release of Sanjay Leela Bhansali's historical drama 'Padmavati' has once again brought to focus the power of the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC).
Films in India can be screened publicly only after getting a go-ahead from the CBFC. Thanks to its ex-chairman Pahlaj Nihalani, the board is now a household name.
But how does it exactly work?
All CBFC members are appointed by the Central government
A statutory body under the Information and Broadcasting Ministry, CBFC's certification process follows the Cinematograph Act, 1952, the Cinematograph (certification) Rules, 1983, and the guidelines issued by the Centre u/s 5 (B).
Headquartered at Mumbai, it has non-official members and a chairperson, all appointed by the Central government.
Other than the metros, the CBFC has regional offices in Bengaluru, Thiruvananthapuram, Hyderabad, Cuttack and Guwahati.
How long does it take to certify a film?
Film certification can take the CBFC up to 68 days.
It first scrutinizes the application, which can take up to a week. Padmavati couldn't clear this stage due to "incomplete paperwork".
The film then goes through the examining committee (15 days) and the chairman (10 days). Informing the applicant of the cuts, overseeing them and issuing the certificate can take another 36 days.
The four categories of film certification
Depending on a film's content, the censor board can adjudge its audience and certify it in four categories - U: Universal (for all), U/A: Universal but requires adult supervision for children under 12 years, A: Adult, S: For special class (such as doctors and farmers).
CBFC chairperson is not a part of the examining committee
The CBFC has three panels. The first, the examining committee, has four members, two of whom need to be women. Most films get certified from this panel, which does not include the chairperson.
The committee previews the film, each member gives written recommendations about the deletions or modifications and the rating.
The report is then forwarded to the CBFC chief.
Films reach revising committee if refused certification at stage 1
A film reaches the second panel, the revising committee, only if the examining committee refuses it certification.
It includes the chairman and not more than nine members, who are all different from those in the examining committee. Their identities are kept secret. The panel can deny certification of a movie if its makers refuse to comply to its recommended cuts or changes.
Filmmakers can go to courts if CBFC refuses certification
The final panel, the Film Certification Appellate Tribunal (FCAT), consists of veteran members of the film industry, and retired judges of the Supreme Court and High courts.
Films usually take about a month to get certified because it takes careful consideration to constitute this panel.
In case FCAT refuses certification, the makers can move the high court and the SC if need be.
Do you know?
Prasoon Joshi is the 28th CBFC chairperson in 63 years
Poet-lyricist Prasoon Joshi was appointed the 28th CBFC chief on August 11, 2017, after Pahlaj Nihalani's ouster put an abrupt end to his controversial tenure. Other notable CBFC chairs include filmmaker Hrishikesh Mukherjee (1981-82), actors Asha Parekh (1998-2001), Anupam Kher (2003-04), and Sharmila Tagore (2004-11).