History and Development of Censor Board of India

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The Central Board of Film Certification abbreviated as CBFC usually stated simply as Censor Board. It was formed in 1952 for the purpose of Film Certification. It is a legitimate censorship and organization body under the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Government of India. Its main aim is to examine theatrical presentations, films in order to filter whole or part of the presentation on the basis of any obscene politically unacceptable actions, ideas, thoughts displayed.

It is tasked with prohibiting films to be displayed comprising of wrong messages for the community, under the provisions of the Cinematograph Act 1952. The Censor Board in India shield its audiences from viewing things that might disturb then, even though violence, hatred and practice of bad language goes on everywhere every day. A film can be only publicly displayed if the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) has certified it. When categorizing a film many aspects have to be put into contemplation. The display of violence, sex and bad language at different rates in a film can change the film certification. The CBFC has established a system of certifying films that provides guidance on the public suitability of the film.

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The history of the Censor Board of India (as it was called back then) goes way back to 1896, the year in which the first film came to India. By the Production of the first film in India in 1913, Indian Cinematograph was passed which came into effect only in 1920. Censor Boards back then was under the police chiefs at several locations across the country.

After the Independence, regional censors were put to an end and it was bought under the Bombay Board of Film Censors. With the formation of Cinematograph Act, 1952, the board was united and then known as the Central Board of Film Censors and when the rules were revised in 1983 the board was branded as the Central Board of Film Certification.

According to the Supreme Court of India, “Film censorship becomes necessary because a film motivates thoughts and actions and assures a high degree of attention and retention as compared to the printed word. The combination of act and speech, sight and sound in semi darkness of the theatre with elimination of all distracting ideas will have a strong impact on the minds of the viewers and can affect emotions. Therefore, it has as much potential for evil as it has for good and has an equal potential to instill or cultivate violent or bad behavior. It cannot be equated with other modes of communication. Censorship by prior restraint is, therefore, not only desirable but also necessary.”

Aims and Objectives

  1. To make films sensitive to the values and standards of the society.
  2. Make films provide clean and healthy entertainment.
  3. Censor board makes sure activities such as violence are not adored or justified in any way in films.
  4. Scenes displaying of children in violence, abuse or mockery of physically and mentally handicapped persons and cruelty or abuse of animals, are not allowed by the censor board to be presented in films.
  5. And scenes that are either justifying or glorifying alcohol or drugs consumption are not shown.
  6. To make sure human sensibilities are not offended by vulgarity, or depravity from any scenes.
  7. Scenes which shows humiliating or demeaning of women in any manner are not presented.
  8. Scenes of sexual violence against women like attempted rape or any form of molestation and if any such scenes are necessary to the theme, they should be reduced to the least and no glory details are shown.
  9. Visuals or words disrespectful to racial, religious or other groups are not presented.
  10. The sovereignty and integrity of India is not called out into question or disrespected. The security of any country is not risked or threatened. Friendly or unfriendly relations with the foreign states are not stressed.
  11. To make Indian films entertaining, motivating, spread awareness and positivity to everyone.

Certificates and Censorship

Primarily, there were only two types of film certificates “U” and “A” Two more categories were added in June 1983. The Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) has primarily four types of certifications:

    1. U (Universal) – Unrestricted Public Exhibition throughout India and holds no restriction for age groups. This U certificate is the basic one of all it means anybody can see the film without any kind of restrictions. These movies might comprise of educational, family or social oriented themes. They may also contain fantasy violence or mild bad languages.

For Example: Mary Kom, Barfi!

    1. U/A (Parental guidance) – Films with UA certificate might contain some moderate intimate or violence scenes thus it is best if children below 12 are accompanied by parents, as the theme may be a bit unsuitable for the child. These films may also comprise of mature themes, mild sex scenes, sexual references, mild violence or occasional use of crude language.

For Example: 3 Idiots, Bhaag Milkha Bhaag

    1. A (Adults Only) – Films with A certificate is restricted to adult audiences only, that means individuals above 18 years of age. Films in this category might contain adult themes, brutal violence, strong sex scenes or scenes consisting of drugs, alcohol or other harmful substance abuse, which is not appropriate for minors.

For Example: Hate Story Movie Series

  1. S (Restricted to any special class of publics) – Films with S certificate should not be watched by the public. Only people related with it like Engineers, Doctors, Scientists, etc. have authorization to watch those films.

For Example: The Birth

Censorship bodies have written the guidelines about what is banned in films and they have been a subject to modify over time, dependent partly on the expressed concern of the community but mostly on what the government and the chief viewers of the country want. In more modern times, such censorship bodies have partially surrendered to their authority, mostly in the United States and to a great level in India, where the censorship has reverted to the local level and the central body only categorizes films with respect to their content as suitable for various age groups. Permitting the public to view films which have violent content can hold the extent on the film industry liable towards contributing in the growth of criminality in India. There has been a great quantity of research in trying to recognize the effects of films/theatre on the public specifically in relation to violence. The question is would that film disturb you? If the answer is yes, then perhaps that film is not for you. If you don’t like horror films and get afraid, why watch them? The age restrictions shouldn’t have to tell you if you are or are not allowed to watch the film, it should be your own personal choice and if you are considering watching a violent film which if for 18 above only, you should be old enough to make the decision by yourself.

Case Studies

Due to the various guidelines and restrictions of the censor board many films face a lot of problems in the process of getting certified. An evaluation over the existing works on cinema reveals that debate over ‘censorship’ continues ever since cinema’s development as a mass entertainment industry. The conflict over it is regularly fought and however at times in terms of angry public protest at the explicit or sexual obscenities scenes in the films. The arguments of Indian film censorship mostly revolved around scandal, sexuality, nudity and violence extreme representation of vulgarity and lewdness is largely seen as the reason for censorship becoming predictable in India. Restrictions for the public moral being essential for socio-cultural, political, national security reasons. But, vulgarity being perceptual and having different meanings for different segments of age and community, the judgments of CBFC were often questioned and complained upon, making it a controversial issue for the public, directors, producers of films. Many of the CBFC’s judgments hasn’t been entirely reasonable. Many protests has been ignited from the judgments of the CBFC, whether it be giving a incorrect certificate to a film or not certifying a film or having objections on a film that doesn’t deserve it. These unfair decisions may have been the outcome of corruption, politics, etc.

Lipstick Under My Burkha

Lipstick under my burkha is a 2016 film written and directed by Alankrita Shrivastava. This film received a lot of criticism but also was a hit on box office. The film was at first denied a release in India after the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) rejected a certificate, declaring that “There are were contagious, sexual scenes, abusive words, audio pornography and a bit sensitive touch about one particular section of society(women)” Then the film was taken to the Film Certification Appellate Tribunal (FCAT). The FCAT watched the film and showed its concerns. The film came back to FCAT with a list of 16 cut. The FCAT advised some more cuts and directed the CBFC to issue an ‘A’ certificate to the film succeeding the changes. The film was released and received critics from both Indian and international critics.


Padmaavat is 2018 Indian epic period drama directed by Sanjay Leela Bhansali it is loosely based on the poem Padmavat by Malik Muhammad Jayasi. This film was at the center of a huge controversy whether it be the CBFC releasing it or the public protesting against its release. Many Rajput caste organizations including Shri Rajput Karni Sena and its supporters had protested and later damaged the film sets claiming that the film shows the Padmavati, a Rajput queen, in bad persona. They also attacked Bhansali on a film set. Deepika Padukone and Bhansali received death threats. The controversies surrounding the film revisited the question of film censorship in India and the country’s freedom of expression The Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) after a long wait decided to give “Padmavati” a UA certificate and has suggested the director to change the film’s title to “Padmavat”.

Udta Punjab

Udta Punjab is a 2016 Indian black comedy crime co-written and directed by Abhishek Chaubey. It is centered on the drug abuses by the youth in the state of Punjab. The Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) wanted a stop the film’s release stating what the theme deals with were too vulgar for the common audience. The board gave 13 suggestions to film’s producers which meant a massive 94 cuts alongside an A certificate for the film. Here are the things the CBFC wanted removed from the film.

CBFC said that a scene displaying the hero (Shahid Kapoor) urinating in front of a crowd requires to be deleted from the film and a disclaimer added in the film which says “The film focuses on the rising menace of drugs and the war against drugs and is an attempt to show the ill-effects of drugs on today’s youth and social fabric. We acknowledge the battle against drugs being fought by the government and the police. But this battle can’t be won unless the people of India unite against the menace.” These cuts came despite that CBFC giving the film an ‘A’ certificate that strictly means the film can only be viewed by adults. According to The Economist, Pahlaj Nihalani “was appointed by the BJP, whose coalition partner in Punjab, the SAD (Shiromani Akali Dal a political party in India), had much to lose from bad publicity” consequential from the film, due to a subplot in the film “a parallel with the real-life case of a convicted drug lord who named the SAD deputy chief’s brother-in-law as his accomplice”. Shortly after his removal as the CBFC Chief, Nihalani revealed in an interview that he had received orders from the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting to block the release of the film. There were also some piracy issues. Some parts of the film were leaked online onto various sites. The producers of the film filed a complaint with the Cyber Crime cell in Mumbai they succeeded in take down 600 links from the web.

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