×

Indian Censor Decisions Shift From Erratic to Surreal and Political

The ongoing saga of India’s Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) making bizarre censorship decisions continued this week with rulings on the films “An Insignificant Man” and “Jab Harry Met Sejal.”

Directed by popular Bollywood filmmaker Imtiaz Ali, romantic drama “Jab Harry Met Sejal” stars Shah Rukh Khan and Anushka Sharma and is due an August 4 release. CBFC chief Pahlaj Nihalani objected to the word “intercourse” used in one of the film’s promos and wanted it removed on the grounds that it was unsuitable for 12-year-olds.

Nihalani initially said that the word could stay if 100,000 people voted to keep it in. Now, he has added a few provisos. The votes have to be from married people aged 36 and above, as they are likely to have 12-year-old children.

Khan has told the Indian media that if the CBFC see the word in the context of the whole film they would understand that the usage is appropriate. “We are yet to send the film to the censors and they should watch the whole film to decide,” Khan said.

The case of Khushboo Ranka and Vinay Shukla’s documentary “An Insignificant Man” is no less surreal and has political ramifications. The film charts the rise of Arvind Kejriwal, the leader of political outfit Aam Admi Party that won 67 out of 70 seats in the 2015 Delhi legislative assembly elections, reducing the Bharatiya Janata Party’s tally to just three. The BJP, led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, rules India.

The film premiered at Toronto in 2016 and has had considerable festival play since, including London, Sydney and Moscow. The producers applied for certification in February for an India release and were met with a series of delays.

“In its final verdict against our film, the censor board has asked us to acquire written permissions from top politicians in India before clearing our film for public release,” said Shukla. “These politicians include the current Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi. The justification stated is that because we are using public speeches of these leaders, we are obliged to take their consent before using their speeches in our film. This is a completely illegal and unethical demand. Public speeches are the only accessible medium for citizens to engage with politicians whose actions affect our lives daily. Documentarians across the world use footage from public speeches of politicians to contextualize their films and engage in critical reflection on their respective societies.”

“It’s akin to asking Michael Moore to get permissions from George W. Bush before clearing “Fahrenheit 9/11” for public release,” said Ranka.

The CBFC has also asked the producers to bleep out the names of the BJP and Congress Party, the main opposition party in India.

The producers have filed an appeal against the decision. Meanwhile, the International Documentary Association has begun a campaign to clear the film.

Kamal Swaroop’s 2014 documentary “The Battle of Banaras” that charts the electoral battle between Modi and Kejriwal in the Varanasi constituency in the general elections of 2014 remains banned in India.

More Film

  • Themba Ntuli and Ashley Lazarus

    Ashley Lazarus, Director of Apartheid-Era Cult Classic, Returns to Screen

    DURBAN–Director Ashley Lazarus, whose film about the interracial friendship between two young boys during the apartheid era became a South African cult classic in the 1970s, is set to return to the big screen with a film that builds on his life-long passion for early-childhood education. “Teacher Wanted” is the inspirational story of a teacher [...]

  • Channing Tatum

    Channing Tatum's Free Association Partners With Atwater Capital for Film Development Fund

    Free Association, a production company led by Channing Tatum, Peter Kiernan and Reid Carolin, has entered into a film development fund with Atwater Capital. The four-year $2 million revolving fund stipulates that Atwater will finance a minimum of five films with Free Association. Michael Parets, VP of production, will oversee the deal. Free Association will [...]

  • Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

    Box Office: Tarantino's 'Once Upon a Time in Hollywood' Takes on 'Lion King'

    Rick Dalton and Cliff Booth, Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt’s characters in Quentin Tarantino’s “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” will have to take on much more than a changing showbiz landscape. This weekend, the washed-up actor and his majordomo are battling Disney’s juggernaut “The Lion King” at the domestic box office. Tarantino’s R-rated auteur [...]

  • Margot Robbie Once Upon a Time

    Margot Robbie Says 'Barbie' Movie Will Put 'Positivity' Into the World

    Over the last 10 years, Margot Robbie has stepped into the skates of Tonya Harding, taken up the mantle of Harley Quinn and, next up, she’s playing the world’s most famous doll, Barbie. The live-action film is due out in 2020 and set to be written by Greta Gerwig and Noah Baumbach, while Robbie serves [...]

  • 2018 NALIP Gala

    National Association of Latino Independent Producers Celebrates Its 20th Anniversary

    Ben Lopez has seen the future of the entertainment industry, and says it is the Latinx community. “In the next 20 years, we’re going to be prioritized — because not only will we have the numbers demographic-wise, we’ll have the spending power,” says Lopez, the executive director of the National Assn. of Latino Independent Producers, [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content