Confessions of a Censor Board Member

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Ideally, my job should be to categorise movies. But in India, it’s not that simple. I have to keep in mind at least 40 sensitivities

I have loved movies ever since I can remember. So it was with great excitement that I joined the censor board from my job in the innards of the IAS. A censor’s job is unique, especially in liberal societies. As Benjamin Disraeli said: “My job begins where knowledge ends.” I dislike it for that very reason. Making a movie is an incredible, combined effort of thousands of people, and here I am, sitting in judgment.

No Harvard Business School course can teach multi-tasking and decision-making better. I sit with my figurative scissors in hand, in the middle of a billion-plus movie-mad people. I may be seeing the movies, but it is the nation that is watching. So I am always nervous.

Ideally my job should be just to categorise movies into various categories—A or U/A. In India, however, it’s never that simple. I have to keep in mind at least 40 different sensitivities. From that of minorities to the portrayal of women to tribal rights. Oh, and I almost forgot to mention Maneka Gandhi.

I have offended hairdressers, I have hurt eunuchs, and I have injured the egos of people from Bihar, Punjab and Nagaland. Rare is a movie I pass that has not impinged on someone’s rights. It is mindboggling that the strong façade of Indian diversity has such a fragile structure. People have time, this I have discovered. Time to write to the minister, time to hold placards, and, if that does not work, time to riot. A censor’s job is a dangerous one.

Even my enthusiasm for the movies did not prepare me for the grind. Soon I was watching 14 movies a week in several languages. Sometimes, I could not sleep from the deadly boredom. I was also finding myself once too often at the bar at my club. I mean, this entire cinema overload needed to be doused.

The worst part of my job is its ridiculous nature. I may cut out a scene and pronto, it’s available deep inside Delhi’s Palika Bazaar on a CD. Technology is like a laser beam cutting through me and making me look ridiculous at the same time. And yet, like a machine, like the system, I go chop chop chop.

Frankly, I am looking forward to the end of my term. I can’t wait to go back to the anonymity of my cadre, most of all not judging. Though once I feel better adjusted, the first thing I will do is visit a theatre.

This person has been with the Central Board of Film Certification for three years