India: ‘Un-Freedom’ movie banned by censorship board

7 April 2015

Florida-based director Raj Amit Kumar’s debut film ‘Un-Freedom’, starring Adil Hussain and Victor Banerjee in key roles espousing homosexuality, has been banned in India.

The filmmaker said such move by Central Board of Film Certification is like taking away the “basic human rights”. He has reportedly decided to approach the court and to file a petition against the board’s decision.

“I feel that it is important that we go on the streets of India and arrange marches. This is not about a particular film, it is about all the films that are not allowed to be screened,” agitated Raj Amit Kumar.

The film is the story of a young girl who resists a forced arranged marriage to unite with her lesbian partner. It is a contemporary thriller set in New York and New Delhi, said to be inspired by Faiz Ahmad Faiz’s poem, ‘Ye Dagh Dagh Ujala’.

India recently voted against gay rights for the United Nation employees. However, in the past, the board allegedly has cleared many films which feature homosexual relationships between two women with an A certificate, such as ‘Fire’ and ’Girlfriend’.

The American erotic romance ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ failed to get a clearance for its release in India from the Central Board of Film Certification.

The board has been in the eye of a storm ever since it was reconstituted in January 2015 with producer Pahlaj Nihalani as its chair. It faced the ire of Bollywood filmmakers and actors when a list of banned words was leaked to the media, causing uproar in the industry. The list contains 28 words which it finds ‘objectionable’.

Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore, India’s Minister of State for Information and Broadcasting attempted to allay film industry fears of growing censorship: “We want film certification to be content based. We want the certification board to be a certification board,” the film magazine Variety quoted Rathore as having said at an annual entertainment industry conference.


» Hindustan Times – 4 April 2015:
Film banned for showing religious fundamentalism: Unfreedom director
Article by Anjuri Nayar Singh

» The Indian Express – 30 March 2015:
Film on homosexuality ‘Un-Freedom’ banned in India

» India Times – 29 March 2015:
India Has Banned This Film, Because You Might Feel ‘Unnatural Passion’ After Watching It!

» Variety – 27 March 2015:
Indian Minister Calms Industry Fears Over Censorship
Article by Naman Ramachandran

The two-minute trailer for the movie ‘Un-Freedom’ was published on on 18 March 2015, and was viewed nearly 750,000 times during the first two weeks.

Background information

» The Associated Press – 13 March 2015:
Politics, sensitivity lead India to rush to ban books, films
A British documentary. A YouTube comedy clip. A book on Hinduism. Each offended some segment of Indian society, and each was banned or suppressed as a result.

In this article recently published by The Associated Press Muneeza Naqvi reflects on the way films, books, theatre plays and other artistic productions are continuously banned in India because the state is subservient to any ethnic or religious group that throws a tantrum.

India is the world’s largest democracy and has made huge economic leaps in the last few decades to become a key Asian power. And yet, as its official and unofficial bans of arts show, this country of 1.2 billion continues to grapple with a complex tangle of deep sensitivities and a political process that is deeply influenced by religious and caste loyalties.

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