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Censor Board's new face

Anupam Kher wants to make a difference to the quality of entertainment on the small and big screen



Anupam Kher... ready with the shears.

AS THE newly appointed chairman of the Central Board of Film Certification - commonly known as the Censor Board - Anupam Kher is now entrusted with responsibilities beyond acting, directing and producing. But for this versatile artiste, this new assignment is just like one more role. Anupam Kher has already glanced through "various guidelines that are a part of the policy" for filmmakers. He sounds a tad worked up, as if he had been preparing himself to get into the new shoes, but he comes out with answers as quickly as one can expect from a sensitive, thinking being.

"It is an honourable post and very responsible too," he says, adding "there is nothing great in my being there."

The Censor Board is a much-maligned entity, but Kher won't speak ill of it. "Look, out of the 300 to 400 films we make each year, only three to four films get stuck in the Censor Board, and I think it is a great ratio. It simply shows how liberal the Censor Board is. It gives the filmmakers enough freedom of expression."

Freedom? Shouldn't the wings of such freedom be clipped, that hurt the sentiments of an average Indian and draw people to the theatres for all the wrong reasons?

"I agree," he says disarmingly. But it is not just the cinema audiences that can expect winds of change from the new Censor Board. Kher says he will begin with television, whose magnetic power in drawing rooms and village commons across the country has left hardly a citizen untouched.

"Nobody is questioning them," he says of those producing television programmes. "With free-to-air channels, a five year-old child is watching all kinds of stuff, and so is a-60-year-old woman. It is not a great threat to the audiences in big cities but has become so in smaller cities and villages. A working woman knows how to protect herself from what is being shown on TV, but it sways vulnerable minds in smaller places."

"Those atrocious remixes, what are they teaching?" he fumes. It seems the endless dose of crudity on the small screen that has almost turned us into a nation immune to obscenity is finally going to face some action. But Indian television feeds primarily off films, and there is plenty of obscenity there too. Filmmakers love to say they are making films for the `masses'. Isn't it unfair to produce just anything, dump it on the audience?

"Audiences want much more. It does not mean that you shower them with only wrong things," he replies and adds with irrefutable logic, "if a filmmaker can show him one man who would not mind seeing his own sister executing the vulgar gyrations and gestures that go in the name of creative license, he will agree not to censor it. They should cite me an example of a brother who does not mind watching his sister pressing her bums before his eyes, I won't censor it."

Yet much more than that has been happening in films, especially for the past few months.

"Agreed. And I am very sorry for that. In the garb of freedom of expression and `intention,' many films have hurt people's sentiments. But for films, an audience still has a choice. Whether to buy a ticket for that film or not? A person prepares himself to go to theatres, he sees his pocket too. But for television he has no choice."

On whether this means he is likely to be less strict in curbing the `fancies' of filmmakers than the creators of TV programmes, he explains, "No, it is not that. It is not only a question of curbing, it is also a question of giving them freedom or liberty. And liberty is a very vague word. Everyone's definition of liberty is different. But yes, not everything can be passed in its name. National ethics need to be restored."

And for that, Kher is all prepared to "reset the policy, the guidelines that have not been touched for the past 10 years. For that, an "intellectual power" will be an integral part of his yet to be chosen advisory board.

Kudos! But does that mean a total revamping of films now?

"Not really, for, there are entire guidelines on the `intention of a filmmaker' that need to be taken into consideration. But I will take up the issue as and when it comes."

With so much to do, Kher's fans might worry about him vanishing from the big screen.

"No," he assures. "The Censor Board chairman's job is not a daily affair. It is about making policy, monitoring and making sure that it is implemented."

His forthcoming films include Bride and Prejudice in which he plays the father, Mr. Bakshi, a man of few words, and a 3-D children's film by Dheeraj Kumar, Abra Ka Dabra in which he plays a magical lecturer.

Learnt some magic tricks for that?

"No, all camera tricks and technology."

RANA A. SIDDIQUI

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