Shwetha Pramod

Lipstick under my burkha

A film has a great power of motivating our thoughts and actions than any other printed words or verbal piece of advice. In India, the film fraternity, one of the largest in the world, controls the dreams and hopes for thousands of audience for the past few decades, especially for the oppressed, discriminated and the marginalized who rely on cinema for a ray of hope. Our country still has discriminations based on gender, race, caste and status they belong to. The same continues with the CBFC in certifying movies, restricting our right to freedom of speech and expression.

Censor the board!

After the landslide victory in 2014 Parliament election, the far-right, conservative NDA government made CBFC into a puppet body by appointing Pahlaj Nihalani, a film producer who has no experience in evaluating movies, selected only on the basis of producing pro-NaMo videos during the electoral campaign, as the Chairman, along with nine members of BJP-RSS links. Restructuring existing staffing pattern in Central and Regional boards is the first and foremost thing that has to be barred. At present, the Chairman is also involved in the day-to-day affairs of certification of the films instead of being a guiding mechanism. Tyrannical!
Before I talk about some of the movies that were let down for its wonderful theme and presentation, let me pay a moment of silence to those movies that were murdered in the judging panel theatres of CBFC. Reasonable restrictions were practiced since the board’s formation but not all conclusions by the board make sense. As the filmmakers of the movie Udta Punjab were not ready to accept the 89 cuts recommended by the board, it was denied a certificate. But the favourable High Court verdict for the movie showed legally how conservative and narrow minded the censor board panel is, also indicating their irresponsibility.
With the recent issue of denying certification to Lipstick Under My Burkha for being a “lady-oriented” movie and the very recent Ka Bodyscpaes for “glorifying the subject of gay and homosexual relationship”, the board has once again proved that it doesn’t make any sense. The movie directed by Alankrita Shrivastava is being celebrated in foreign screens, winning awards in various categories while it is being refused at the nation, where the story revolves, with the lamest of the wrong reasons – “lady-oriented” “fantasy above life” “contentious sexual scenes” “audio pornography” “abusive words.” And if you think the movie is all about a particular community, you are wrong.
It is ridiculous to see the panel approving low-grade movies like MSG-The Messenger, which literally kills the effort and hard work of an art work by creative minds. I also read an article recently that the BJP Government of Haryana has encouraged MSG-2 by making it entertainment tax-free. Bravo! ‘Moonlight’ is widely acclaimed across the world, especially after winning as Academy award for Best Picture, but will be released after undergoing unnecessary cuts and replacements of words. Observing what happened to these movies, the government body is literally confining us to a certain “type” of movies, treating us as an immature citizen incapable of choosing what he or she needs. Surprisingly, those movies with beheading and bloodshed of battle field are graded U/A, where it would matter the children psychologically even if accompanied by their parents. Or let’s put it in this way, the board wants children to learn from unsuitable content for their age. Great.
Lights, Camera, Sleep!

The practice of playing with a few known alphabets like U (Universal), U/A, A and S grades right from the birth, by the board is boring and outdated. I think they were not aware about the progress the film industry has made, exploring the nuances of the society to find stories, while sleeping in “censor” theatre. The certification pattern must be made specific that will invite more audience of all age groups to watch a film they want. The silence of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting headed by Venkaiah Naidu shows the lack of political will in implementing the two-part report of Shyam Benegal Committee which was submitted on April and October 2016 respectively. The committee that consists of experienced members and actors of the film industry, in their report, underlines “CBFC should only be a film certification body whose scope should be restricted to categorizing the suitability of the film to audience groups on the basis of age and maturity” with exceptions and “the applicant must specify the category of certification being sought and the target audience”. The committee also mentioned about the updated specific grading pattern of cinemas.
I believe that there will be some words that could sound abusive to a large group of people. But there are instances were abusive words doesn’t sound so for it is so relevant to that part of the movie. Finding an easy solution for the issue by deleting a list of words like ‘bitch’, ‘motherfucker’, ‘son of a bitch’, evidently points out how lazy the board is. After all, we are capable of judging what is right and what is wrong. I wonder why they aren’t hearing the voice of the audience, by encouraging a representation from the society, who pay their time and tax too at theatres. The artistic and creative expression is being muted when there is replacement of a words.
I dream a dream when I enter the theatre along with people from all walks of life, to open my eyes to fairness in justice, equality, unbiased, no appeasement to big banners, no religious appraisal and uncut cinema, with popcorn.