You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

India Censor Board Accused of Overstepping

Irrational censorship continues to be the bane of Indian cinema and it shows no sign of abating. Srijit Mukherji’s April 14 release “Begum Jaan,” the tale of a brothel caught on the India-Pakistan border during partition in 1947, was forced to cut a sex scene by half and mute several swear words and still received an Adult certificate for its pains. In February, Alankrita Shrivastava’s “Lipstick Under My Burkha,” which has won awards at the Tokyo and Glasgow fests, among others, was denied a theatrical release certificate.The letter sent to “Lipstick” producer Prakash Jha from India’s Central Board of Film Certification stated: “The story is lady oriented, their fantasy above life. There are contanious [sic] sexual scenes, abusive words, audio pornography and a bit sensitive touch about one particular section of society, hence film refused.”

Jha appealed to the country’s Film Certification Appellate Tribunal and got the CBFC decision overruled with some cuts and passed with an Adult certificate.

Related Content Regional-Language Films Power Indian Entertainment Industry’s Growth

“There cannot be any embargo on a film being women-oriented or containing sexual fantasies and expression of the inner desires of women,” the tribunal said in a statement.

“Patriarchy is systematically perpetuated in India, through the narrative of mainstream cinema,” says Shrivastava. “When a film challenges that dominant point of view, when a film refuses to objectify women, when a film considers the desire of women important, I think it scares the ‘guardians’ of our films, the CBFC.”

Adds Mukherji, “What makes it unfortunate is that the suggestions are on the basis of the aesthetics and perceptions of what is ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ as per the members of that particular jury, which was a random selection. And there is no way one can reason with something so subjective as that.”

Shrivastava says that films should be certified for category and the rest should be left to the audience. Mukherji echoes her and adds, “India is a diverse country where over the years the propensity to get offended has exponentially increased, but still cinematic laissez-faire is the only way out of this inconsistent and oppressive paradigm of cinematic policing.”

In March 2015, India’s Minister of State for Information & Broadcasting Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore had said, “We want film certification to be content-based. We want the certification board to be a certification board.” He went on to constitute an expert committee headed by veteran filmmaker Shyam Benegal to recommend guidelines for certification of films by the CBFC.

The committee submitted its report in April 2016 and recommended that the CBFC “must function only as a film certification body.” A 1991 addition to the 1952 Indian Cinematograph Act states that a film will not be certified if it is against decency or morality. The committee states that deciding this should not be in the mission of the CBFC and drafted a new set of guidelines stating that “artistic expression and creative freedom of filmmakers is protected through parameters that are objective; audiences are empowered to make informed viewing decisions; and the process of certification is responsive to social change.”

A year after the committee’s 2016’s guidelines were announced, and they are yet to be implemented. Variety’s requests for an interview any representative of the CBFC did not receive any response. Meanwhile, the body continues to wreak havoc. The censorship decisions for “The Fate of the Furious” include deletion of women gyrating their hips and low camera angle shots of a woman in a short skirt. Some filmmakers have refused to subject their films to cuts, including Woody Allen with “Blue Jasmine” and David Fincher with “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.” Those films were not released in India.

More Film

  • Other Angle Bows Raft of French

    Other Angle Bows Raft of French Comedies at UniFrance's Paris Rendez-Vous (EXCLUSIVE)

    Other Angle has picked up international sales rights to “A Good Doctor” with Michel Blanc, “Just The Three of Us” with Catherine Frot, and “The Father Figure” in the run-up to the UniFrance’s Rendez-Vous in Paris. Directed by Eric Besnard, “The Father Figure” is a supernatural comedy drama following a writer who mourns the death [...]

  • Playables and Double Fine Film 'KIDS'

    Playables and Double Fine Creation 'Kids' Chosen for Berlinale

    “Kids,” a short film from Playables and Double Fine Presents, has been officially selected to screen at the 69th Berlin International Film Festival, announced Thursday via press release. The Berlin International Film Festival, commonly called the Berlinale, is one of the largest film festivals in the world. “Kids” will screen in a Berlinale sidebar called Generation. [...]

  • Roland Joffe

    Roland Joffe to Direct Mobster Drama 'The Legitimate Wiseguy'

    Roland Joffe will direct the independent mobster drama “The Legitimate Wiseguy,” Variety has learned exclusively. Joffe received Academy Award nominations for best director for “The Killing Fields” and “The Mission,” which won the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival in 1986. He also helmed “The Scarlet Letter,” “The Forgiven,” “City of Joy,” “Time Traveller,” and “There [...]

  • Christian Bale (left) as Dick Cheney

    Berlin Adds 'Vice,' New Films by Zhang Yimou and Andre Techine to Official Lineup

    Five new titles, including the latest films from Zhang Yimou and Andre Techine, have joined the official selection of this year’s Berlin Film Festival. Adam McKay’s “Vice” has also been added, but will screen out of competition. “Vice” has already won a Golden Globe for star Christian Bale’s portrayal of former U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney [...]

  • Picture Tree Adds ‘Cold Feet’ to

    Picture Tree Adds ‘Cold Feet’ to Berlin Market Lineup (EXCLUSIVE)

    Picture Tree Intl. has added German romantic comedy “Cold Feet” (Kalte Füsse) to its market lineup at the Berlin Film Festival, where the sales agent will screen the film as a market premiere. Sony Pictures released the pic, directed Wolfgang Groos, in Germany on Thursday, and it garnered 100,000 admissions over its opening weekend. “Cold [...]

  • Neil Burger

    'Upside' Director Neil Burger Sets Sci-Fi 'Voyagers' as Next Project

    “The Upside” director Neil Burger is set to direct sci-fi thriller “Voyagers” as his next project. The film will be fully financed and co-produced by Stuart Ford’s AGC Studios, and produced by Burger’s Nota Bene Productions and Basil Iwanyk’s Thunder Road Films. AGC also handles international sales on the new film. Written and directed by [...]

  • Berlin: M-Appeal Acquires Panorama Title ‘Greta’

    M-Appeal Acquires Berlin Panorama Title ‘Greta’ (EXCLUSIVE)

    M-Appeal has acquired world sales rights to “Greta,” the feature debut of Brazil’s Armando Praça which will world premiere in this year’s Berlinale Panorama section. The Berlin-based film industry has also dropped an international trailer, to which Variety has had exclusive access. Produced by Carnaval Filmes, whose credit include major titles by Marcelo Gomes, one [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content