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

  • Midnight Traveler review

    Film Review: 'Midnight Traveler'

    Refugees rarely get to tell their own stories, which means their stories get told for them — often inaccurately and with undue hostility. Lack of resources is one issue, but a lack of stability is another: Asylum-seekers are in a frightening state of limbo, fleeing the imminent dangers of their native countries only to suffer [...]

  • WGA Authorizing Managers, Lawyers to Make

    WGA Authorizing Managers, Lawyers to Make Deals if Agents are Fired

    The Writers Guild of America has authorized managers and lawyers to negotiate deals for writers in place of agents — if the guild tells members to fire their agents on April 7. The guild’s negotiating committee notified members of the plans in a message Wednesday. The WGA and the Association of Talent Agents having made [...]

  • Gone With the Wind Screening

    Film News Roundup: 'Gone With the Wind' Sets Event Cinema Record

    In today’s film news roundup, “Gone with the Wind” sets a new record, “Fiddler: A Miracle of Miracles” is acquired, and Tracy Oliver signs with Topic Studios. EVENT CINEMA RECORD The 80th anniversary release of “Gone with the Wind” has grossed $2.23 million in six nationwide screenings on four dates — a record as the [...]

  • Made in Abyss - Journey’s Dawn

    Film Review: ‘Made in Abyss: Journey’s Dawn’

    It’s a Herculean effort to take a multi-volume manga like author Akihito Tsukushi’s “Made in Abyss,” adapt it into a popular anime television series, and then compress the show into a coherent feature (technically, two movies), but the folks at Sentai Filmworks have done just that. Part one, “Made in Abyss: Journey’s Dawn,” will screen [...]

  • HAF: 'Assassination,' 'Apprenticeship' Named Project Market

    HAF: 'Assassination,' 'Apprenticeship' Named Project Market Winners

    Eighteen prizes were presented on Wednesday afternoon at the closing ceremony of the Hong Kong Asia Film Financing Forum. The project market sits alongside FilMart as part of the Entertainment Expo in Hong Kong. “Wong Tai Sin Assassination” to be directed by Wong Hoi and produced by Derek Kwok Tsz-kin, was named the winner of [...]

  • Contract Placeholder Business WGA ATA Agent

    Writers Guild Makes Concession on Film Financing in Agent Talks

    The Writers Guild of America has made a concession in film financing in its negotiations with Hollywood talent agents — the second in six weeks of talks. WGA West executive director David Young said Wednesday that it had made a “significant move” toward reaching a deal with the Association of Talent Agents for a revamped [...]

  • Noah Centineo He-Man

    Noah Centineo to Play He-Man in 'Masters of the Universe' Reboot

    From a boy (who’s loved) to He-Man. Noah Centineo is in talks to take on the superhero in Sony Pictures and Mattel Films’ “Masters of the Universe.” Brothers Adam and Aaron Nee are directing the reboot. Related Female Filmmakers Are a Growing Voice in India Aamir Khan Sets Up ‘Forrest Gump’ Remake in India Mattel [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content