By Harsha Man Maharjan
The Censor Board appeared in Nepal in the post-1950 period. But cinema had entered Nepal in the Rana period. Some examples prove that the Ranas used to irregularly screen cinema for the public. In 1949, the Rana government established a cinema, Kathmandu Cinema Hall, for regular screening of films in Kathmandu. There was no need for a censor board then because the screenings were under their supervision. Cinema technology was expensive, so it was beyond the people’s reach.
This scenario changed in the post-1950 Nepal. In three years, many new movie theaters – Prabha Hall, Moonlight Hall, Shree Hall, Chalchitra Hall, Bishwajyoti, Jai Nepal etc – came into existence. Demands for licenses for cinema halls might have urged the government to opt for a film censor board. So, one was formed in 1951. Accordingly, people had to submit films before screening them publicly or privately. The government charged Rs. 100 and confiscated films and projectors in case of violation. The rule contained eight points related to communal feelings, vulgarity, superstition etc. This board was under the home ministry and had the power not to certify films if it deemed so.
It was the state that made the first feature film, “Aama”, in Nepal around 1964. It was in the Panchayat period. Before this the censor board dealt only with foreign import. The scenario changed with “Maitighar”, made around 1966, the first feature from the private sector. Some 17 years later, the next film produced in Nepal by the private sector was “Juni.”
His Majesty’s Government of Nepal enforced the Motion Picture (Production, Exhibition and Distribution) Act 1969, which made provisions for the Film Censor Board. This act had four criteria for certifying or rejecting movies: “a) To permit the said motion picture to exhibit publicly without prescribing any conditions; b) To permit to exhibit publicly, subject to any alteration, modification or abiding by any other conditions and restrictions; c) To permit, prescribing the condition that the said motion picture shall be exhibited publicly for adults above the age of sixteen years; or d) Refuse to give permission to the motion picture for public exhibition.”
The Board could modify scenes of a cinema if it found that the film undermined “His Majesty the King or the royal family”, jeopardized “the security, peace and law and order of the Kingdom of Nepal”, harmed “the harmonious relations subsisting with foreign states, or peoples of various castes or tribes”, and which might “cause negative impact on public interests, or behavior or morality”, or defamed “any person or contempt of court or incitement to any offence.”
The Act even authorized the government to stop “a motion picture already permitted by the Film Censor Board for exhibition” if the government found it objectionable. Till 1971, the Board was under the Home Panchayat Ministry. The National Communication Services Plan 1971 proposed one representative each from the Home Panchayat Ministry and Royal Nepal Film Corporation to the Board. The Plan also instructed the Board to air royal proclamations before and in the middle of film screening in cinema hall, as well as to screen religious films regularly. The Plan also brought the Board under the Royal Nepal Film Corporation.
The Film (Production, Exhibition and Distribution) Rules, 2001, which formulated the act, had made provision for a seven-member board. They were the Joint Secretary and Under Secretary of the Ministry of Information and Communication, representative of the Home Ministry, representative of the Culture, Tourism and Aviation Ministry, three citizens from the film sector, including one woman. It authorized two types of censor board in Nepal: central and local. The former was to be in Kathmandu, and local boards in every district.
The government amended this regulation on January 11, 2010. But the amendment was criticized for increasing the regime’s power of prior censorship. This amendment added a member from the Film Development Board to the Censor Board. It also made provisions for four categories of films for exhibiting – U, suitable for all; PG, needing parental guidance; S for special professions; and A for audience above 16 years of age. Before this, there were only two categories: U and A.