Folklore has it that when Feroz Khan presented Dayavan before Censor board, the lady out there objected to the famous two-minute long kissing scene featuring Vinod Khanna and Madhuri Dixit. This is when the charming Khan asked her - "Ma'm, haven't you experienced this? If not, then perhaps your husband is not a romantic man as he is ignoring a beautiful lady like you". And lo, when the film played in theatres, not even a single frame went missing from the entire sequence even as 'Aaj Phir Tumpe Pyaar Aaya Hai' played in the background.
Now if only Mr. Khan was alive today, he would have been the hot favourite for many a filmmakers to listen to their plight and also share his views on the points as raised in this week's 'Reflections'.
The necessary evil
Everyone understands the importance of a Censor body. No filmmaker ever disputes the fact that it is imperative to have a controlling body so that there is some 'law and order situation' (strictly from Bollywood content standpoint) maintained and there are no raging bulls threatening to run amok. Fair enough, makes sense. But what happens when many accuse the board of adopting different criteria for different films, different set-ups, and different situations and of course different personalities?
Bhaag aandhi aayi.....
Picture this. 'DK Bose' is the talk of the town, for right as well as the wrong reasons, and even as the parents and their 9 year old kids (ref: Anubhav Sinha's tirade against the song) totally understand the connotations of the song, the makers are sounding completely oblivious to the 'double meaning' here. Censors felt the same too and passed the song with flying colours.
The immediate accusation that comes in is - 'Would the Censors have been equally oblivious had the film come from a lesser banner and starred the likes of an Emraan Hashmi or a Riteish Deshmukh or a Tusshar Kapoor?' Now these are the new generation actors known for their naughty films and are hence readily available candidates for further scrutiny. Would the double meaning have resulted in only one meaning? The one which stands for 'vulgar'?
Would the Board have just looked at these men and their films and said - 'Bhaag DK Bose, Aandhi Aayi?'
So what's the issue?
None actually. It's all fair enough in fact, what with Aamir, Kiran, Ram, Imran or their buddies getting what they wanted. They made something, felt they had done a good job at it, Censors agreed as well, audience is happy too and a chartbuster song is helping crisp album and ring-tone sales, especially in the times when illegal downloads have done enough damage to the music industry. The obvious 'plight point' is - 'Why can't it be consistent for all?'
Why is Luv Ranjan asked to cut short his harmless 'pecking scene' between Nushrat and Kartik just because the Board felt it was extending beyond limits? (Ref: Pyaar Ka Punchnama)
Why does Madhur Bhandarkar develop cold feet and drop his man-to-man kissing scene (involving Samir Soni) even before screening his film for the Censor Board? (Ref: Fashion)
Why is Gul Panag's voice silenced when she confirms with Sharman Joshi whether he is carrying a condom? (Ref: Hello)
Of course, the Censor Board would have given the reasoning for all the cuts and suggestions. Perhaps quite a few would have made sense as well. However, it's the consistency factor that aggravates the entire issue due to which immense resentment sets in.
Arunoday Singh and Aditi Rao have more kissing scenes than dialogue interactions on screen (Ref: Yeh Saali Zindagi)
Rahul Bose and Arjun Mathur comfortably indulge in mouth to mouth kiss, presumably due to it being an 'art house' film (Ref: I Am)
Newbies Kirti Kulari and Kalki Koechlin enquire about Strawberry, Apricot and Banana as if they were shopping for fruits. And that happens for different flavours of condoms in a chemist shop (Ref: Shaitan)
Filmmakers ask questions. Different people come up with different answers. At times, the same Censor Board gives different reasoning because the 'committees' change. Ask Luv Ranjan - leave aside his film, even his promos had to for through multiple iterations before someone pitied upon him and put a final stamp of approval, albeit with cuts.
Different times, different mindset
As far as my understanding goes, guidelines for Censors haven't changed for decades. It's the interpretation that has, due to which thankfully there is some level of relaxation that has come in. However, that too is sporadic and seemingly depends upon which side of the bed has a Board member woken up.
Less than a decade back Paanch was banned because it was way too violent. Today it is remade as Shaitan with even more graphic appeal and guess what; it is released with minimum cuts and is now fast gaining cult status for itself!
Anand Bakshi wonders what's wrong with 'Choli Ke Peeche' (Khalnayak) and feels it's the listener whose mind is corrupt, not the writer's. Today a 'Penchar' (Delhi Belly) comes and it is termed as 'harmless fun'.
Just six months back, Madhur Bhandarkar was asked to beep the word 'pornography' from Shruti Hassan's dialogue Dil Toh Baccha Hai Ji. Today in Shaitan, Neil Bhoopalan is shown jerking off at the very sight of semi clad lesbian characters (that too in a video game) even as his mom enters the room and leaves in disgust.
You can't have characters mouthing the 'F' word in a regular mainstream film. But if they happen to be 'issue based' films like No One Killed Jessica or I Am, cuss words flow all around the narrative. No questions asked.
Three decades ago in Deewar, live-in partners Amitabh Bachchan and Parveen Babi can be found under the sheets in a semi-nude state. Today in Pyaar Ka Punchnama, Kartik and Nushrat can't share cute little moments while calling each other 'babu' and 'sweetoo' because live-in is apparently against our Indian culture and tradition.
This is where the entire argument around U, U/A and A comes into picture. The Censor Board mandate is to have different ratings for different films. But the question is - 'Isn't it all outdated? Not just the guidelines but the very concept of Censorship?' Rest assured these rules were defined decades ago when innovations like internet, piracy, downloads and torrents didn't even occur in anyone's dreams.
But the situation is different today.
First and foremost, I am yet to see a leading multiplex actually stopping kids from entering the screen which is meant only for adults. Ok, so it may be happening sporadically and perhaps at select multiplexes on a sample basis but by and large, there are hardly any restrictions that are actually put into force. The situation can be practically considered to be worse at the single screens and especially in small towns and cities. Leaving aside this fact, let's talk about practical reality. Anyone can turn around and say - 'So you are not allowing me to watch a film in theatre because of certain rating? Fair enough, there are always internet downloads available.'
Of course, the point here is not to avoid censorship on growing kids or even mature minds that may be threatened by corruption. However, the need of the hour is self-censorship rather than someone out there (who has been pulled out of his regular job to sit on the panel for those few hours of movie watching) giving his recommendation for entire India around whether a particular movie is suitable for the audience or not.
And if at all it is indeed the case, then well let there be consistency. And by consistency, I mean something that takes cinema viewing in a forward direction rather than backward. Case in point being the 'No Smoking' order that had been imposed a few years back and (thankfully) retracted after a phase of heavy dissent. Really, we don't want any more of that!
On a lighter note...
As per Wikipedia, "In 2002, the Indian filmmaker and former chief of the country's film censor board, Vijay Anand, kicked up a controversy with a proposal to legalise the exhibition of X-rated films in selected cinemas across the country, saying "Porn is shown everywhere in India clandestinely... and the best way to fight this onslaught of blue movies is to show them openly in theatres with legally authorised licences".
Well Sir, rest assured your soul is resting in peace. Just a few thousand miles away, Hong Kong just did that successfully with Sex and Zen: Extreme Ecstasy and that too in 3D!
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