The heavily criticised and much-divided censor board of Pakistan is fast turning over a new leaf. The board recently laid off incompetent members and revised its censor policy, while trying to go the whole hog on much needed revamping.
Dr Raja Mustafa Hyder’s appointment to the board seems like a good idea. The man came off as deserving, competent and seasoned enough to introduce some important changes to the board.
“We are trying to bring a more modernised form of censorship and promote entertainment for entertainment’s sake,” says Hyder, based in Islamabad. “We have to make sure that the material does not incite riots or hurt our national honour.”
The new censor board has “cut the excess fat”, which had been associated with the institution in the form of nepotism and cronyism, said the new chairman. The original 64 members on the board have been reduced to 21.
It now includes representation mainly from bureaucrats, lawyers, and anchors. When asked why people from the industry were not present on the board, Hyder said, “It will fuel a conflict of interest.”
During a full-board meeting, Hyder explained that a new rating system would be implemented, and licences and the rating should me made part of a film’s trailer. He also said that the censor board would soon be updating its outdated screening hall and moving away from 35mm films.
The rating system will be brought to more normative standards so that viewers can also pre-censor the film before deciding to watch it. Hyder said that the rating system would be broken down into three categories: ‘C’ for cleared, ‘B’ for banned, and ‘R’ for restricted films. However, it wasn’t clear how a film marked as ‘B’ would reach the viewer in the first place.
Hyder explains that the ratings will be based on variables of national security, obscenity, nudity, dances, gory images, hurting national/religious sentiments, bestiality and lastly plagiarism.
“What is good for India may not be good for us,” says Hyder. “We must pay heed to our national identity and culture while censoring
However, Nadeem Mandviwalla, the managing director of Mandivalla Entertainment, thought that the rating system was futile as films were being cut in spite of it.
“It makes no sense to have a rating system and then cut films. Furthermore, no matter how much you improve the rules and regulations, the films are available through the internet and DVDs,” said Mandviwalla.
The appointment of a new censor board chairman seems to have provided little encouragement to people from the film industry.
Chaudary Kamran, a producer and a vocal critic of the government’s censor policy, said that federal government’s role in censoring should be limited to foreign films.
“The issue is that the Punjab government is not doing anything for films,” says Kamran. “The other issue is that not many Pakistani films are being made to begin with.”
Published in The Express Tribune, February 5th, 2013.