While there has been an intellectual uproar over the cuts ordered by the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) in Suman Ghosh’s documentary The Argumentative Indian, the CBFC chairperson speaking on the cuts exclusively to this writer, argues that the mere deletion or beeping of six words is no reason to feel creatively smothered when those words indicate a clear contempt for Indian culture and democracy.
Says Nihalani, “I’ve been flooded with calls from print and television channels asking why we’ve beeped six words in the documentary. For the first and last time, here’s the reason why. Because we felt a documentary on an Indian Nobel laureate referring so insensitively to our politics and religion could result in a serious breach in the peace and harmony of the country. At one point Prof Sen talks of Indian democracy and refers to Gujarat’s “criminalities.” We’ve asked for “Gujarat” to be removed. At another point in the documentary there is a reference to the enemy in India being religious leadership. We’ve asked for ‘India’ to be removed here. The third word we’ve ordered cut is when Prof Sen speaks of India being interpreted as ‘Hindu’. We’ve asked for Hindu to be removed. The fourth cut is that of the word ‘cow’ where Prof Sen while speaking of religious integration makes a frivolous reference to the ‘cow’. The fifth and according to us minor change is in Prof Sen’s line about the Vedas being used in a sectarian way these days. We’ve asked for the words ‘used’ and ‘these days’ to be removed. And finally Prof Sen refers to the Hindutva view of India as “banal”. We asked for the offensive adjective to be removed.”
Nihalani says the 6 words removed the documentary is wrongly being seen as pro-government chamchagiri. “We are not asking for the removal of the words under pressure from the Government. We seriously feel the removal of the words causes no injury to Prof Amartya Sen’s thought processes in the documentary. On the other hand referring to a cow in a flippant manner or calling Hindutva “banal” could seriously breach the communal harmony of the country. When filmmakers talk about freedom of expression they should know that such freedom comes with a responsibility. You may be a Nobel laureate. But if you speak disparagingly about things held sacred by the population you are vulnerable to attacks.”
Nihalani wants the documentary’s director Suman Ghosh to calm down. “Simply reacting because six words are beeped out when they in no way affect your artistic freedom is just a knee-jerk reaction. Please look at the larger picture.”
The censor chief also points out a serious legal breach on the part of this documentary’s makers. “They have screening the film without a censor certificate in various public places of India. That’s illegal. Freedom of expression is fine. What about breaking the law?”