The Dirty Picture fiasco highlights need for clarity on censorship for television. Satellite rights still hang in balance, broadcasters say
After its run-in with the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting (I&B), The Dirty Picture (TDP) will finally air on television on August 26. Featuring Vidya Balan in the lead, the film will be telecast on Sony Entertainment Television (SET) and on MAX, the Hindi movie channel from the same network. The channel’s controversial run-in with the Ministry resulted in 59 cuts in the original A-rated film, which has now received U/A certification and has been deemed by the Censors as ‘fit for television viewing’ in any time band.
An ecstatic Tanuj Garg, CEO, Balaji Motion Pictures, says, “It is a relief that after such a long ordeal, The Dirty Picture is finally seeing the light of the day on television. Let’s hope sanity is restored and no other production house goes through what we went through!”
But it will take more than hope to dispel the uncertainty the TDP fracas has brought to the fore. What about other A-rated Hindi movies that are yet to air on TV such as Delhi Belly, Hate Story and Kyaa Super Kool Hain Hum? The satellite rights of these films have already been sold but after the TDP debate, both filmmakers and broadcasters are on tenterhooks.
Censorship rules are sometimes whimsical and there are many grey areas that leave content open to interpretation. This costs filmmakers and broadcasters not only sleepless nights but, more importantly, they impact on time slots and satellite rights. For instance, the satellite cost of an A-certified film, which is much lower than that of a U or U/A film. Broadcasters feel that for A-rated films to bring in revenue during the 11 pm slot (designated by the I&B ministry), the satellite rights of these films must be reduced.
Confusion of the kind that arose over TDP muddies the waters and leaves several questions unanswered. During the TDP controversy, Neeraj Vyas, Business Head, MAX had pointed out that the 11 pm slot is not a very lucrative one as viewership during this time is not high. “Even if we plan to air these films after 11 pm, the cost of purchasing them cannot be justified.”
Filmmakers feel that not only does this lead to a loss of marketing monies but we need well-defined rules and regulations to prevent a TDP-like situation from recurring. Vijay Singh, CEO, Fox Star Studios, remarks, “Almost 20 per cent of a film’s box-office revenue is lost when it received A certification and this impacts the satellite rights of the move.”
Singh also points out that it is increasingly difficult for filmmakers and broadcasters to anticipate trouble from censors as there is a lot of differentiated content airing these days. Abhinay Deo, director of Delhi Belly, agrees. “Right now, the confusion is because there are no 100-per cent laws for this. So, while you can depict crime scenes including rape on TV, smoking and adult dialogue is banned. There is too much ambiguity. People are taking a lot of liberties on television and getting away with it. But, suddenly, all eyes are on content when a hit film airs on TV.”
Having burnt its fingers once, Balaji is now playing safe. For its recent release, Kyaa Super Kool Hain Hum, the studio plans to apply for U/A certification for TV viewing. “We have just started making new-age cinema and realistic films. So cinema has grown up but it’s still new to television. I guess it will take a few years to find a solution,” Deo adds.
Vivek Agnihotri, director of the A-rated film, Hate Story opines, “TDP’s screening on the small screen will open the door for other films. It is a new trend but in the next two years, we will see more and more directors shooting films simultaneously for the big screen as well as for television.”
Broadcasters are keeping their fingers crossed and keeping a keen eye on content. Fox Star’s Jannat 2 will also air on Sony and two weeks later, on MAX. A source from the channel says, “We will be more cautious about purchasing A-rated films henceforth, especially after the TDP fiasco.”