India, one of the largest democracies in the world, is ironically a country disturbingly accustomed to restrictions, limitations, embargoes and bans. She has endured a massive range of diktats and decrees. Some were protested against, while some were meekly accepted.
Amid the politics and polarization of it all, art has suffered immeasurably. The Central Board of Film Certification (yes, that, and not the Censor Board as it is popularly(?) called, is its official name) has had its share in contributing to the artistic obliteration that many a filmmaker have suffered on account of.
Unfortunately, that in a country with a rich dialectical tradition like ours, censorship seems to have become the go-to move for anything and everything that supposedly offends, or is objectionable, or ”unsuited” for the Indian sensibilities.
Without mulling over the undeniably sad state of affairs, let’s take a look at some of the films that struggled and persevered before they got the release, and some others that remain languishing still, on the dusty shelves, in the dingy rooms.
No Country for Love
Directed by Mira Nair in 1996, Kama Sutra: A Tale of Love, is a film that essays the nature of love and relationships in a 16th century India. The film is eponymously named after the ancient Indian text, Kama Sutra. Needless to say, the unflinching erotic content in the film did not go down too well with the self-righteous guardians of morality and propriety. Even though the film was banned in India, it went to achieve awards and accolades in festivals around the world.
Desired – A Sense Of Humor
Kissa Kursi Ka (1977), a political parody, attempted to depict the Indian political scenario, with sly burns and thinly veiled digs at the then ruling dispensation. It was during the period when a state of emergency had been declared in India. With individual freedom curtailed greatly, it is hardly surprising that a potentially incendiary satire was kept from releasing.
Five Things I Hate About You
Made in 2001, Anurag Kashyap’s first film Paanch, an unabashed crime thriller, irreverent in its approach, never saw light of the day. The film was strongly reproached for being too openly violent and sexual. Objections were also raised on the drug abuse and indiscriminate alcohol consumption that was shown in abundance throughout the film. The dialogue was too scathing and the board was afraid of the impact it would have on the viewers. The fact that it was loosely based on a series of grisly murders that were perpetrated in Pune, might also have been one of the reasons the film was banned.
Denial Is Not Just a River in Egypt
India’s Daughter (2015), a BBC documentary made by Leslie Udwin was supposed to be an eye-opener. It was supposed to be a film that held up a mirror to a society that was unaware of its entrenched biases and ideological gender discrimination. A film is about the horrifying rape and murder of a 23 year old physiotherapy student that shook the people of the country out of a stupor of sorts. India’s Daughter tried to throw light on the psyche of the criminals and the upholders of law alike. The authorities took offence over the fact that it showed India in bad light and tried to paint it as a country where women were unsafe and disrespected. India’s Daughter was banned, thanks to their vehement denial, but BBC released the video on YouTube and also garnered support and appreciation from many across India.
Happy And Gay – Not
A 2014 film that depicted LGBT rights and struggles and attempted to juxtapose it with the Muslim identity, Unfreedom was banned in India for being instigative in nature. Dealing with two highly sensitive topics, it was bound to evoke an array of emotions and the CBFC decided it was best to keep it from the emotional audience of India.
Apart from these, a host of other films have been banned in India. Garam Hawa, Aandhi, Bandit Queen, Fire, and Sins, to name a few.
It is worth mulling over, that many evocative films are often banned in India. Would it be entirely wrong to assume then, that it is probably because the hoi polloi are considered foolish and petty by the Government? Should we take offence? Or should we hope that a day will arise when art is allowed to be free, unbridled and devoid of restrictions?
*The set featured image is taken from DeviantArt, made by Iamthedarthvader.