Movie censorship

Benegal panel on film censorship takes a stand for creativity, but who will watch the watchmen?

Much depends on the reconstitution of the Central Board of Film Certification, currently headed by the scissors-happy Pahlaj Nihalani.

Should films be censored or certified? The committee headed by eminent filmmaker Shyam Benegal to provide guidelines to the Central Board of Film Certification has firmly voted against censorship and made a case for respecting the collective intelligence of the movie-going public.

The committee submitted its report to Information and Broadcasting Minister Arun Jaitley on April 26. The members (Kamal Haasan, Rakeysh Mehra, Piyush Pandey, Goutam Ghose, Bhawana Somaaya, Nina Lath Gupta and Sanjay Murthy) agreed that the CBFC needs to categorise films according to age groups rather than mutilate scenes. “Artistic expression and creative freedom are not unduly curbed in the process of classification of films,” recommended the committee, and “ the process of certification by CBFC is responsive, at all times, to social change.”

There was no immediate word on rolling back the rampant muting of profanity, an initiative spearheaded by CBFC chairperson Pahlaj Nihalani. Will kissing not be reduced any more “by 50%”, as the producers of a recent James Bond film were asked to do? The devil is always in the details.

Film industries across the country will welcome the recommendation that viewers need to be treated like grown-ups, but how many producers will comply with the suggestion that “the applicant must specify the category of certification being sought and the target audience”? The notion of what is “harmful or unsuitable content” for children is subjective and debatable. Besides, filmmakers who wish to increase their market reach push for UA certificates even when their movies are clearly meant only the 18-plus population.

The Benegal committee has a solution: apart from the three main categories, there is a recommendation to sub-divide the UA category into UA12+ & UA15+. “The A category should also be sub-divided into A and AC (Adult with Caution) categories,” recommends the committee. If these categories are created, the onus of the implementation will ultimately rest with cinema chains.

The Mudgal committee report

The creation of new categories also features in the reported submitted by the committee headed by Justice Mukul Mudgal to the previous Congress-led coalition government in 2013. The Mudgal committee members included former CBFC chairpersons Sharmila Tagore and Leela Samson and poet and lyricist Javed Akhtar. None of their suggestions has thus far been implemented.

Both committees also warned against banning films on the specious grounds of unsuitability, except when they contravene the provisions of the Section 5B (1) of the Cinematograph Act, 1952. According to this wide-ranging clause:

  “A film shall not be certified for public exhibition if, in the opinion of the authority competent to grant the certificate, the film or any part of it is against the interests of 1 [the sovereignty and integrity of India] the security of the State, friendly relations with foreign States, public order, decency or morality, or involves defamation or contempt of court or is likely to incite the commission of any offence.”  

The more far-reaching recommendations of the Benegal committee concern the CBFC’s functioning. The Board, which includes the chairperson and members picked by the I&B Ministry, is exhorted to play “the role of a guiding mechanism for the CBFC, and not be involved in the day-to-day affairs of certification of films”. One member should represent each of the nine regional offices (the current constitution of the board tips the balance in favour of Delhi and Mumbai).

Nothing short of an overhaul will be necessary to implement a fresh process of appointing "examining officers", as the people who watch and rate films are known. Several examiners are political appointees who are affiliated to the ruling party. They are a part of the CBFC not because of their understanding of cinema but their contacts, and they are often the culprits behind the sanctimony and righteousness that govern certification.

Even the selection of the CBFC board is routinely politicised. The current crop includes BJP members Vani Tripathi Tikoo, Jeevitha Rajasekhar, George Baker SVe Shekher, Rashtriya Swayamsewan Sangh activist Ramesh Patange, and Narendra Modi cheerleaders Ashoke Pandit and Mihir Bhuta.

Observed the Mudgal committee report:

  “At certain locations, members of such advisory panel lack any form of cinematic understanding, they perceive their role to be that of a Censor Board to cut and chop scenes and in some cases being affiliated to some political, religious or social group, impose without restraint, such political, religious or personal opinions upon content permissible in a film.”   

The Benegal committee has offered a practical solution: it has recommended that the National Film Development Corporation, the Federation of Film Societies of India, the National Council for Protection of Child Rights and National Commission of Women, and the Film Federation of India each recommend 25% of the examiners. Women should have 50% representation on each advisory panel from each regional office. This suggestion, if implemented, will go some way towards improving the certification process and ensuring that at least half of the examiners have more to do with cinema than politics.

Age of Pahlaj

Another important recommendation is that the original uncensored version of a film be despoted with the National Film Archive of India rather than the censored version. This will enable future scholars and students of cinema to watch a movie that reflects the filmmaker’s vision rather than the prejudices of the examiners.

There is also hope for filmmakers on the issue of the obtaining clearance from the Animal Welfare Board of India and the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. The AWBI’s hyper-vigilance has held up or interfered with several films that feature animals and birds. The ministry’s insistence on running a scroll every time a character lights up over and above a general health advisory that runs in the opening credits is proof that the CBFC doesn’t trust the intelligence of the average viewer.

The Benegal committee has sought more time to offer recommendations on the certification of films that feature animals and birds and/or smoking. The final report will be handed over to the I&B Ministry on June 20. The ministry’s decision will affect filmmakers and fans as well as influence the current functioning of the CBFC.

Will the Age of Pahlaj finally be behind us?

We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.
Sponsored Content BY 

Putting the patient first - insights for hospitals to meet customer service expectations

These emerging solutions are a fine balance between technology and the human touch.

As customers become more vocal and assertive of their needs, their expectations are changing across industries. Consequently, customer service has gone from being a hygiene factor to actively influencing the customer’s choice of product or service. This trend is also being seen in the healthcare segment. Today good healthcare service is no longer defined by just qualified doctors and the quality of medical treatment offered. The overall ambience, convenience, hospitality and the warmth and friendliness of staff is becoming a crucial way for hospitals to differentiate themselves.

A study by the Deloitte Centre for Health Solutions in fact indicates that good patient experience is also excellent from a profitability point of view. The study, conducted in the US, analyzed the impact of hospital ratings by patients on overall margins and return on assets. It revealed that hospitals with high patient-reported experience scores have higher profitability. For instance, hospitals with ‘excellent’ consumer assessment scores between 2008 and 2014 had a net margin of 4.7 percent, on average, as compared to just 1.8 percent for hospitals with ‘low’ scores.

This clearly indicates that good customer service in hospitals boosts loyalty and goodwill as well as financial performance. Many healthcare service providers are thus putting their efforts behind: understanding constantly evolving customer expectations, solving long-standing problems in hospital management (such as long check-out times) and proactively offering a better experience by leveraging technology and human interface.

The evolving patient

Healthcare service customers, who comprise both the patient and his or her family and friends, are more exposed today to high standards of service across industries. As a result, hospitals are putting patient care right on top of their priorities. An example of this in action can be seen in the Sir Ganga Ram Hospital. In July 2015, the hospital launched a ‘Smart OPD’ system — an integrated mobile health system under which the entire medical ecosystem of the hospital was brought together on a digital app. Patients could use the app to book/reschedule doctor’s appointments and doctors could use it to access a patient’s medical history, write prescriptions and schedule appointments. To further aid the process, IT assistants were provided to help those uncomfortable with technology.

The need for such initiatives and the evolving nature of patient care were among the central themes of the recently concluded Abbott Hospital Leadership Summit. The speakers included pundits from marketing and customer relations along with leaders in the healthcare space.

Among them was the illustrious speaker Larry Hochman, a globally recognised name in customer service. According to Mr. Hochman, who has worked with British Airways and Air Miles, patients are rapidly evolving from passive recipients of treatment to active consumers who are evaluating their overall experience with a hospital on social media and creating a ‘word-of-mouth’ economy. He talks about this in the video below.

Play

As the video says, with social media and other public platforms being available today to share experiences, hospitals need to ensure that every customer walks away with a good experience.

The promise gap

In his address, Mr. Hochman also spoke at length about the ‘promise gap’ — the difference between what a company promises to deliver and what it actually delivers. In the video given below, he explains the concept in detail. As the gap grows wider, the potential for customer dissatisfaction increases.

Play

So how do hospitals differentiate themselves with this evolved set of customers? How do they ensure that the promise gap remains small? “You can create a unique value only through relationships, because that is something that is not manufactured. It is about people, it’s a human thing,” says Mr. Hochman in the video below.

Play

As Mr. Hochman and others in the discussion panel point out, the key to delivering a good customer experience is to instil a culture of empathy and hospitality across the organisation. Whether it is small things like smiling at patients, educating them at every step about their illness or listening to them to understand their fears, every action needs to be geared towards making the customer feel that they made the correct decision by getting treated at that hospital. This is also why, Dr. Nandkumar Jairam, Chairman and Group Medical Director, Columbia Asia, talked about the need for hospitals to train and hire people with soft skills and qualities such as empathy and the ability to listen.

Striking the balance

Bridging the promise gap also involves a balance between technology and the human touch. Dr. Robert Pearl, Executive Director and CEO of The Permanente Medical Group, who also spoke at the event, wrote about the example of Dr. Devi Shetty’s Narayana Health Hospitals. He writes that their team of surgeons typically performs about 900 procedures a month which is equivalent to what most U.S. university hospitals do in a year. The hospitals employ cutting edge technology and other simple innovations to improve efficiency and patient care.

The insights gained from Narayana’s model show that while technology increases efficiency of processes, what really makes a difference to customers are the human touch-points. As Mr. Hochman says, “Human touch points matter more because there are less and less of them today and are therefore crucial to the whole customer experience.”

Play

By putting customers at the core of their thinking, many hospitals have been able to apply innovative solutions to solve age old problems. For example, Max Healthcare, introduced paramedics on motorcycles to circumvent heavy traffic and respond faster to critical emergencies. While ambulances reach 30 minutes after a call, the motorcycles reach in just 17 minutes. In the first three months, two lives were saved because of this customer-centric innovation.

Hospitals are also looking at data and consumer research to identify consumer pain points. Rajit Mehta, the MD and CEO of Max Healthcare Institute, who was a panelist at the summit, spoke of the importance of data to understand patient needs. His organisation used consumer research to identify three critical areas that needed work - discharge and admission processes for IPD patients and wait-time for OPD patients. To improve wait-time, they incentivised people to book appointments online. They also installed digital kiosks where customers could punch in their details to get an appointment quickly.

These were just some of the insights on healthcare management gleaned from the Hospital Leadership Summit hosted by Abbott. In over 150 countries, Abbott is working with hospitals and healthcare professionals to improve the quality of health services.

To read more content on best practices for hospital leaders, visit Abbott’s Bringing Health to Life portal here.

This article was produced on behalf of Abbott by the Scroll.in marketing team and not by the Scroll.in editorial staff.