Censorship in movies

07 May 2024


The Film Fraternity

Films are considered as a great medium of communication with the people. With the development and progress of the society and also with the progress in the field of science and technology, the films have undergone a sea change and by adopting all the available technologies, have been able to reach the masses and are also significantly contributing to the social and cultural development of the country. In this way the films are equated with the Press as Press is also considered as a great medium of communication.

The Constitution

Article 19(1) of Indian constitution ensures the right to freedom of speech and expression for all. Hence, this right is also applicable to movie makers as well as the writers. Article 19(2) specifies the freedom of expression should not threaten sovereignty and integrity of Nation. Censor Board was established based on this principle.

Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC)

A motion film is certified by CBFC, the regulatory authority in India, under Section 5A and B of the Cinematograph Act, 1952. CBFC certifies and differentiates movies as ‘U (Unrestricted Public Exhibition)’, ‘U/A (Parental Guidance for children below the age of 12 years)’, A (Restricted to adults), S (Restricted to any special class of persons).

The censorship debate

The censorship debate is a big topic that can’t be neatly placed into categories of ‘Right’ or ‘Wrong’. Films can inspire people, change attitudes and ignite something inside deep within. This is something that was recognised a long time ago and it has been controlled to some degree ever since. The censor board members may not reflect the thoughts of entire society. How can a few persons decide what society treats as acceptable? All this boils down to a discussion about the pros and cons of censorship!


Influences the young

Nowadays, most movies have unrealistic scenes. Violent scenes that motivate young viewers to copy the tasks their heroes perform on screen may cost them their lives. movies which claim that consumption of drugs is injurious to health are actually promoting the use of drugs as young minds grow curious to try them in real life. It is better such scenes are censored. Children are also watching ‘A’ certified movies, filled with full of violence. Accessibility of movies has increased considerably. So there is a need to remove scenes of too much violence and vulgarity.

Tackles the unacceptable

If a part of a movie contains scenes or language that cannot be accepted by people of all religions, then there will be calls to ban the movie and a riot may break out. So, to avoid them, the government has set up a board that will censor those unacceptable parts. If there is no censorship, there are dangers that movies that hurt sentiments of certain sections will be out in public. This can lead to violence and threatens public order.

Keeps children safe

Censoring certain parts of movies helps keep children away from hearing and seeing inappropriate things. Nowadays, children are addicted to watching TV. When a movies is shown on TV — and most movies are these days — children are exposed to it. Inappropriate scenes or a string of wrong words can teach them all the wrong things and have a bad influence. As a society, we have a responsibility to protect children from being exposed to dangerous content.

Maintains harmony

Scenes that make a travesty of history or create friction amongst people should be completely removed. The case of the movie, Padmaavat, which released in January 2018, is the perfect example for the need of censoring movies to maintain communal harmony.


An art

The arts do not influence people’s thoughts and feelings, let alone their actions, unless they connect with something already present in those people’s personalities or experience. People choose what art they will look at, what movies they will watch, what games they will play or what sites they will visit, because of who they already are. Cinema, like other art forms, is a medium for expression. Filmmakers translate their vision onto the big screen through months or years of hard work. Thus, to snip off portions that are undesirable in a movie is unfair.

Obstructs creativity

Censoring parts of a movies obstructs its creative flow and nullifies the effect of the narrative. It is always up to us if we want to watch a movie or not. Censoring parts of it means breaking the million thoughts and ideas that go into building that movies. Documentaries, which are meant to expose truths, are also undergoing many cuts. Filmmakers spend lot of money and time to make movies. If parts of the movie are cut in the name of censorship, they will be discouraged to make more movies.

Essence lost

Be it a plot or sub-plot, every part of a movie is crucial. So, with a part missing, the entire essence of the movie is lost. It’s time to leave movies in the hands of the movie’s crew, and not the certification board. People have the mental ability to decide what to watch and what not to watch. Government has no right to decide what people are allowed to watch.

Television and Internet

There is no censorship to content on Television and Internet. Hence there is no point in censoring just movies. There are lots of short films and movies available in the internet too.


Is censorship a necessary evil?

Censorship can be considered a necessary evil, but that doesn't negate the freedom of speech and expression completely. The chief problem is that it seems that Censor Board doesn't look into alternative options before banning a movie and fails to take into account a lot of mitigating factors involved in the making of the movies. While public interest needs to be protected, private interest of the parties involved cannot absolutely be forgotten.

Loss of time and money

Right from the script to music, to production and advertising, a lot of effort and money has gone into movie which when banned enormously impacts the economic status of people involved, which in turn comes under the ambit of their fundamental right of livelihood. This repeated pattern of Board or Government banning or halting the release of movies, thereby consequently an appeal being filed to High Courts and Supreme Court where the ban is lifted is getting quite tedious.

A proper balance

Cinema being an important instrument of expression of ideas and free thoughts must remain unrestricted from any kind of censorship. Restriction of any kind must not infringe upon the basic human right of expressing one's view in the community of civilized societies. However, at the same time one must keep in mind the practical realities of the society in which such ideas are broadcasted. All this calls for some measures to be taken by authorities, to clarify the objectivity with which a movie must be granted a certificate. The struggle between the necessity of censorship and freedom of speech must be met with a right balance.

Hence, a balance must be maintained between the right of expression and the duty to maintain peace in the society. The Certification Board must take a balanced approach while reviewing movies and must take into account that the harmony between freedom of expression and sense of security and peace in the society is maintained. In a perfect world, censorship would not be necessary. Children wouldn’t be exposed to movies inappropriate for their age and every person would have the mental stability to clearly recognise the boundary between movies and reality. But we don’t live in a perfect world - so while we can’t always monitor what our children watch, or predict what could inspire violent behaviour, we can take steps to protect the unguarded things in society through classification and censorship.



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