India, the country which produces the most number of films in the world, has a perpetual villain in all its films. Believe it or not, it is a body of the Government of India, called the Central Board of Film Certification [CBFC]. Only, no one knows it by this name because censorship is its specialization. It is, therefore known as the Censor Board. In workplace, there will be one person who thinks they’re the boss even when they aren’t. Like in your college, you definitely had this lecturer who thought s/he was the principal. Censor board which shall be called the Board hereafter, is that lecturer. ‘Sir, can we have a literary hour this Friday instead of next?’ ‘No!’ ‘May I know the reason, sir? ‘Because I say so!’ Yeah, makes total sense.
What does the Board do?
It does not release films. Yes, for a body whose job is just to give certification to films, it is really weird that most of the time, all it does is to proclaim films as unfit for Indian viewers. The Board bans both Indian and international films. Sometimes they just deny rating (certification) which will ensure that it becomes difficult to release it in theatres and on TV. Why does the Board do it? The legend has it that it’s because they feel like it. Some of the taboo topics for the Board?
1. A Script
Yep, the Board thinks that for a film to have a script is a problem. The latest (nonsense) from the Board has been its response to ‘An Insignificant Man’, a documentary on Aam Aadmi Party led by the now CM of Delhi, Arvind Kejrival. The Board asked the filmmakers to get NoCs [No Objection Certificates] from Narendra Modi, Arvind Kejrival and Sheila Dixit. The reason for this is not clear because Pankaj Nihalani, CBFC chairperson had only bullshit to say about the move. ‘Now, even if things are in public domain, still the makers must have written a script out of it, there will be a storyline combining all the things. So, they need to get an NOC.’ Okay let’s get this straight. Every film, documentary or fiction, has a script. Documentaries might have real events captured on camera [the thing used to record moving pictures], but the decision to put the camera in there and pressing record is also script. Even abstract films have narratives evolving out of the visuals [these are the things you see on screen] and the audio [that which you hear if you hear anything at all]. So since you have made clear that it fears that a film might have a script, can you tell us this. Just to get perspective. Does music have notes?
That’s right. The Board, as a general rule, does not like women. Or anything to do with them. The most recent (hilarious) reason regarding women given by the Board to refuse release to a film was when they said that ‘Lipstick Under My Burqa’ was lady oriented among other (stupid) reasons. Seriously? When women all over the country have been fighting for their rights from time immemorial, the Board thought that a woman centric film is a problem? Well, it is true. So, dear Board, please do this. Bring out a circular which bans women characters in films. That should solve your problem for good. To make women-centric films, there should be some women in it, raaaight?
So in this country, manufacturing riots is not the problem, apparently. Making films about it is. You cannot make a film about the Sikh genocide, because hey, the Congress party was behind it. The Board, generally can’t bear with any form of art which deals with the controversial. Especially if the ‘controversial’ topics are truths. Like, the ruling party BJP’s brainchild, the Gujarat genocide. Here is what the board can do. Like how you people have statutory warnings which have to pop up every time someone smokes, drinks or does drugs on screen, do it for scenes which show the truth. Have a warning run like this. ‘What you are witnessing is truth. It is very injurious to us. Close your eyes to avoid seeing ugly truth because hey, the world is so beautiful. P.S. The Board is the most beautiful.’
Okay, so here is the thing. Sex is okay in India. As long as tears do it. Yes, here, High Court judges think that animals reproduce with tears. The Board thinks that animals called humans who reproduce and you know, generally have some fun, should do the same. That is, they should not use sex organs or their bodies for having sex. Also, sex is acceptable only if it is heterosexual. According to the Board, Homosexual sex, transgender sex etc shall not be shown on screen either. So the wise thing to do now will be that, whenever there is sex in the story, show a peacock crying. When it is homosexual sex or any kind of sex which is not acceptable by the Board, show a dead peacock. In the beginning of the film, put in a title card which says this: ‘No peacock tears were misused in this film. All of it were used to impregnate peahens.’ The Board should ensure that every film does this and keep track of the number of peacocks in the country.
In the context of ‘An Insignificant Man’, Filmmaker Vinay Shukla aptly summed up the future of Indian cinema thus. ‘CBFC doesn’t want political films to be made. It wants people to continue making those candyfloss films. This way people will not be encouraged to make movies about real issues. It sets a wrong precedent for everyone, especially aspiring filmmakers. They won’t try because they will know that their films will eventually get stuck.’ Result? India will be watching something like ‘Kuch Kuch Hota Hai’ in 2050 too. Good luck with that.