The Curious Case of the Central Board of Film Certification

The Censor Board, as the CBFC is known, is the organisation that is tasked with certifying films as per their content for release. I thought this to be a pertinent issue to speak of, in light of the recent trouble Abhishek Chaubey’s Udta Punjab is facing with this moral police-like organisation. Heard of Pahlaj Nihalani? The pro-government Chairman of the CBFC is known for his outrageous demands. But it seems that the people who work under him are as loony! Pahlaj Nihalani is perhaps the most versatile  sleazy B-grade filmmaker. His films are obscene, to say the least. For example:

  1. His film Aag Ka Gola had a most disgusting kiss between Archana Puran Singh and Sunny Deol.
  2. Anil Kapoor sang a song which had the words Khada hai, Khada hai (No guesses for what he was talking about) in one of his films.

I’m not giving more instances (There are many such. Look them up.) but these two at least show what a *beeping* hypocrite Nihalani is. He says no nudity. But his leading ladies can dress as provocatively as he wants them to. He claims that he is protecting the Indian youth from certain things. Yes, that’s why his films have had obscene and vulgar songs. And despite the crass films he makes, the Spectre kiss between Monica Bellucci and  Daniel Craig was deemed too long. Fantastic! You can’t say words like ‘sex’ or anything related to male or female anatomy. That’s wrong. Perhaps the Hindi versions sound better. Nihalani is also a literal chamcha and bhakt of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. He played videos praising the PM during intervals of Sooraj Barjatya’s Prem Ratan Dhan Paayo, thereby traumatising the audience further. And why can’t we talk about drug abuse in our films without it being made into a controversy? More so since we are champions at objectifying women. Certificates were given to Grand Masti, Kya Kool Hain Hum (1,2,3) and Mastizaade. All of these films were ridiculous in the way women were depicted. Why not ban them too? Especially since their content is also ridiculous. You are willing to let children watch a Sheila, Munni, a Chameli etc. but not willing to let them know what drug abuse is? What the fuck?! There you go! I cursed.

Coming to the issue of Udta Punjab. Watch the trailer. The film looks like one of the most amazing films these last few years. The CBFC has stopped its release, saying its too vulgar. The trailer also has curses. But curses are not the only problem. Drug abuse is a problem for the CBFC. Because it’s a myth to them. Grow up! People are doing weed, coke, hash, ecstasy etc. You name it, they’re doing it. But no, drugs are not Indian enough, or whatever the excuse is. Perhaps there’s a political agenda. The Badal family is afraid that if the film brings to the fore the realities of drugs in Punjab, they’ll lose the Assembly Elections next year. Haha! I hope they do. They are responsible for the youth of Punjab transforming into drug addicts. Law-and-order seems to be something they don’t know shit about! Opposition leader Capt Amarinder Singh has critiscised the move. Let’s hope he is being honest about it and not bashing the Badals for the sake of bashing them. The problem lies within the mentality of the people. I was told recently that some of my characters in my recent short, A Daddy’s Dilemma, curse a bit. My point is that that is how the youth speaks. We use expletives on an hourly basis. You can’t have everything. It comes naturally, one could say. And it’s not like people didn’t swear earlier. Everyone has done it at some point of time. Nihalani calls the youth out for their way of speaking. Dude, look at your films! Watch them, you sick homo sapien. No cultured, decent person would make such a film. But you aren’t one so one can’t really say much for you. Interestingly, the makers of Udta Punjab (Phantom and Balaji) were seeking an ‘A’ certificate. So now, adults will be told what they can watch and what they can’t. You can’t do that. Not only is it stupid, it’s also senseless. Adults should have the right to watch anything and everything. In fact, I’m of the opinion that everyone from the age of 15 should watch the film just to be made aware of how real the problem of drugs is. Grow up, CBFC! You can’t play nanny to the people of this country. Hoping that Colonel Rathore and the FCAT see the film as it is and pass it without cuts. Also, the Shyam Benegal committee recommendations made a lot more sense than Nihalani’s crap! When are they being implemented and when will this pornographer leave the CBFC? For the Udta Punjab issue, I’d like to quote Diljit Dosanjh from the trailer: Baat aapki aur meri nahi hai, yeh baat hai Punjab ki!

Here’s wishing the entire team of Udta Punjab all the best for their film, which looks great. And hoping we grow up! Thank you!

Varun Bhakay Writing 2016

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2 comments

  1. Varun, I have read your outburst against Nihalani and tried to analyse what exactly is the issue here. Hypocrisy ? Is that the issue ? Had the Censor Board been chaired by a Anna Hazare or a Satyarthi – the cuts and bans being imposed would be alright. Is that what you are saying ? Because you have taken pains to research the past and have correctly pointed out the vulgarity / indecency and impropriety of Nihalani’s own films – where the very scenes and themes which he finds ‘objectionable’ today, were shown with gay abandon. Seen against this backdrop, the holier-than-thou stance he assumes as chairperson on CBFC today does appear grossly hypocritical. But that is just one part of your ire, I am sure. Another part which I see intertwined with his dual standards – is your extreme displeasure at objections raised by the CBFC under him. Various restraints and cuts and bans being imposed on popular Hindi / English cinema and your own ideas about decency and nudity and propriety are in conflict with those of the Boards’. Accordingly, the cut on the kissing scene in Spectre, the ban on cuss-words, the restraint on showing ‘A’ rated films on TV and a host of such ‘draconian’ moves introduced by Nihalani are unacceptable to you. And to a lot of other people too. In essence, therefore, there is a need to define vulgarity, nudity and sexually explicit content. Your apparent stand is, there is absolutely no need to place any curbs on what the ‘adult’ population of the country wants to see and what, the ‘moral police’ would have them see. We shall come to this aspect later. The third reason you are irritated in this regard, is the specific case of a Panjabi movie – which apparently deals with drug abuse and other ugly realities of life.

    Now, re-focus the lens you hold to your eyes, and take a more wide-angle view. The issue is, whether society should be guided, advised and educated about moral values and whether any restraint on individual and collective freedoms can be imposed by the government.

    My take on the issue is:
    1. If government is censoring / banning cinema because of political issues, issues with social relevance, crime / insurgency and human rights etc – then CBFC must be shown its place. These are not negotiable rights. Had CBFC banned ‘Sairat’ or ‘Sarkar’ or any such film which shows the real picture but places the government of that day in a bad light, the anger you have so forcefully expressed would have been understandable and a cause for concern.
    2. The debate about what should and should not be done to arrest the steady degradation we see in society’s value system, has been raging forever. Each generation feels that they are being supressed by mores decided by an outdated and irrelevant older generation. With all that debate, in India and abroad, they have not been able to define what constitutes the acceptable extent of ‘NUDITY.’
    3. Advisability of exposing youngsters (defined by law and accepted world-wide as ‘minors’) to unhindered obscenity, vitiating their impressionable minds through cinema, is open to question. The ubiquitous internet and easy access to pornography online is taken as justification for opening up these shackles. It is said that youngsters will do what they would – regardless of any force or restraint on their choices.
    4. I have myself held the view that cinema only depicts the prevailing social ethos. It does not initiate any change or modify existing moral or social values. The EXCEPTION is the youngster’s impressionable mind. Umpteen instances reported in the press where the ‘Negative’ effect of cinema has been brought out. Juvenile crimes attributable to cinema are innumerable. The ability to discern right and wrong or assess the effect of any misadventure contemplated and carried out – taking a cue from cinema, is very limited in children of tender ages. There MUST be a mechanism to arrest the polluting effects of Cinema on them.

    In conclusion I would say that the rightists in sway today are making an effort to reduce ill effects of a strong visual media and aims to ‘catch-em-young’ for building up a more upright generation. a trade-off in this bargain will be some heart-burn, some anger at the high handedness of ‘authority’ and the righteous breast-beating which always follows any break-away trend.

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    1. It’s not just about how big a hypocrite Nihalani is….It’s also about the way he projects himself, as if he is some saviour of the youth of this country. In regard to the ‘negative effect’ of cinema, my point about item numbers, while not directly in the context of the post, is in relation to that. That said, you have your views, Kaka, which are perhaps more in connection to those of your peers while mine are the same with my peers. As for the Satyarthi/Hazare point, no, it would still not have been acceptable. I’m only highlighting what I see.

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