India: Film censorship continues unabated

13 July 2016

india Central Board of Film Certification cbfc
Even after losing the high profile, month-long battle with the film producers of ‘Udta Punjab’ wherein India’s Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) called for nearly 100 cuts/edits, the board continues to censor films throughout the country at a fast clip.

Though the CBFC has been embroiled in controversy over its decisions and methods, other government and non-government actors have also been quick to censor films or halt them from being screened in cities across the country. In June 2016, at least six films have been censored or not allowed to be screened.

Filmmakers protest in southern India
On 20 June 2016, directors and film workers from the Film Employees Federation of Kerala in southern India held a sit-in protest at the regional CBFC office in Thiruvananthapuram to protest cuts the board demanded to film ‘Kathakali’, reported Gulf News on 20 June 2016.

The CBFC ordered three cuts on the grounds of nudity, including a scene in the film’s climax where the protagonist sheds his clothes and walks into a river, which director Saijo Kannanaikkal said would remove the “soul” of the movie. The board also wants obscene language to be removed from the film, reported The Indian Express on 21 June 2016.

Board bans based on theme and obscenity
Two other films – ‘Haraamkhor’ and ‘Saat Uchakkey’ – have also come under CBFC’s scrutiny, reported The Indian Express on 22 June 2016.

‘Haraamkhor’ has been denied certification due to its theme, which tells the story of a relationship between a teacher and student. The film’s director Shlok Sharma said the film “is a sensitive portrayal of a tumultuous relationship with no titillating visuals”, and that while it does touches on a taboo, the film does not “glorify” it.

Interestingly, the newspaper points out, current CBFC chairman Pahlaj Nihalani produced a 1994 film, ‘Andaz’, that is based on the same student/teacher theme.

Meanwhile, “Saat Uchakkey’ has been denied certification due to the use of obscene language. Lead actor Manoj Bajpayee has said that the language is necessary to present the characters who are “a bunch of local buffoons”.

The makers of both films are appealing the CBFC’s decisions.

Beyond the board
In the city of Muzaffarnagar, in north western India, makers of the political drama ‘Shorgul’ have stated that district magistrate Dinesh Kumar Singh has banned the film from being screened in several cities across the state as it touches on the 2013 riots between Hindu and Muslim communities, which led to 62 deaths, and may lead to re-sparking violence, reported NDTV on 21 June 2016.

Producer Vyas Verma said that the film is not a “depiction of any specific incidence or occurrence” and that the state of Uttar Padesh is “just a backdrop”.

While the CBFC has not banned the film, it did ask the filmmakers to mute a few words in the film, which they did.

The film is about a Hindu boy who falls in love with a Muslim girl as political unrest unfolds and is banned in Muzaffaranagar, Meerut, Kandhla, Kairana, and Bhavani.

Earlier in May 2016, legislator Sangeet Singh Som petitioned the courts to ban the film as he claimed the film was a “conspiracy” against him. The petition was dismissed. Som has been one of those accused of inciting the 2013 riots, reported The Hindu on 24 June 2016.

Government cultural centre stands alone
In Kolkata, in the western Indian state of West Bengal, government film and culture complex Nandan will not screen film ‘Cosmic Sex’ as the committee has deemed it “inappropriate”, despite it having been approved by the CBFC, reported The Times of India on 23 June 2016.

The film’s director Amitabh Chakraborty stated:

Censorship is happening at many levels and not just the CBFC, as the ‘Udta Punjab’ controversy will have us believe. My film has an A certification but Nandan still refuses to show it. When we are talking about introducing scissor-less censorship, here is a film with a valid certificate that is being doubly censored.

The film centres around the practice of mystics who harness sexual energy for spiritual practice and features several scenes with nudity. Before receiving its certification the CBFC ordered 31 edits to the film, including inserting black and white masking on nude shots, as well as removing or muting words and bits of dialogue.

» Read more about the state of censorship in India in Freemuse’s recent article in the  INSIGHT  series:
India: Censors under fire


» The Hindu – 24 June 2016:
Sangeet Som wants film on Muzaffarnagar riots banned

» The Times of India – 23 June 2016:
Re-run of ‘Udta Punjab’ controversy in Kolkata

» India Today – 23 June 2016:
Udta Punjab in Kolkata: Theatre refuses to screen Bengali film Cosmic Sex

» The Huffington Post – 22 June 2016:
Jimmy Sheirgill starrer ‘Shorgul’ has been banned in Muzaffarnagar

» The Indian Express – 22 June 2016:
And the battle continues: After Udta Punjab, two more Hindi films fight for censor nod

» NDTV – 21 June 2016:
Shorgul banned in Muzaffarnagar, say makers

» The Indian Express – 21 June 2016:
Protests after CBFC blocks Malayalam film Kathakali on ground of nudity

» Gulf News – 20 June 2016:
Malayalam film directors protest censorship

More from Freemuse

» 30 May 2016: India: Censors under fire

» 9 April 2016: India: Censor board bans own member’s movie

» 11 March 2016: India: Two superhero blockbusters suffer cuts

» 4 March 2016: India: Non-state groups ban Bollywood film featuring homosexual relationship

» 21 January 2016: India: Censor board’s ‘truly epic cuts’ to American movie

» 12 February 2016: India: Frustrations in film industry over censorship

» 25 November 2015: India: Board censors James Bond kissing scenes

» 7 April 2015: India: ‘Un-Freedom’ movie banned by censorship board

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