The politics of representation during Emergency: Cinema and Censorship in 1975 | Department of History

The politics of representation during Emergency: Cinema and Censorship in 1975

This project aims to study how the CBFC worked during the Emergency compared to the normal functioning of the CBFC. For that matter, what were the norms of functioning since its foundation till the emergency? What did these films consist that aroused such repressive gestures on behalf of the government? Is emergency constitutive of democracy? What are the implications of film censorship on the workings of democratic polity?

The constitution of India has provided for imposition of emergency (under the Article 352) during war, external aggression and internal disturbance. An emergency in that order has been declared thrice – 1962 (China War), 1971 (Pakistan War) and 1975 (declared by Indira Gandhi). The last one was declared by Indira Gandhi in response to “internal political turmoil” and was in effect for a 21-month period (1975-1977). During this time, the elections were suspended and civil rights were vigorously curbed. The Central Government also abolished the press council and imposed a ban on the publication of anything that seemed ‘objectionable’ and only pro-government news were allowed to be published. Films were also subjected to scrutiny and hence censorship played an integral role in subverting any dissent voices.                   
           Censorship legislation was introduced in India at a time (1918) when her British rulers were determined that cinema should serve, unflinchingly, their colonial interests. The rulers of independent India decided to carry forward this legacy of film censorship in the form of Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC), which was formed in 1951. During the 21 months of Emergency rule CBFC banned three films after their release – Aandhi, Kissa Kursi Ka and Nasbandi – and also intervened to change the climax of India’s magnum opus, Sholay, which was released with edits. These films suffered during the Emergency and left behind a series of questions.  Research on these areas, I argue, would lead to an understanding of cinema as a cultural practice and its relation to the functioning of the Indian state both in times honouring the normative order, as well as exceptional moments in the career of the Indian state?