Humping, kissing and abuses: Pahlaj Nihalani and what adults in India can’t watch | bollywood | Hindustan Times
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Humping, kissing and abuses: Pahlaj Nihalani and what adults in India can’t watch

For the last few years, Pahlaj Nihalani has been working tirelessly, against public opinion and against common sense and has gradually succeeded. Babumoshai Bandookbaaz is his latest conquest.

bollywood Updated: Aug 03, 2017 15:49 IST
Jyoti Sharma Bawa
Lipstick Under My Burkha was deemed too ‘lady oriented’ by Pahlaj Nihalani’s CBFC.
Lipstick Under My Burkha was deemed too ‘lady oriented’ by Pahlaj Nihalani’s CBFC.

It was a long time ago, I became an adult. I chose my life partner, I was a participant in choosing many governments of this country, and I chose my career. Now, having spent more than three decades on this planet, it seems I never earned the right to have those choices.

The man who brought about this reawakening: Pahlaj Nihalani. For the last few years, the man has been working tirelessly, against public opinion and against common sense and has gradually succeeded. There must be something to perseverance, really. He has established that there are things that adults in India cannot be trusted with. “Humping”, for instance. Hindi expletives, for another. Or films dealing with homosexuality. Or those that are “lady-oriented”.

As the CBFC (Central Board of Film Certification), fondly called censor board because you are what you do, sat down to certify – aka censor – Nawazuddin Siddiqui’s upcoming Babumoshai Bandookbaaz, it gave the film A certificate. Then it gave it 48 cuts. Mind you, the board felt there are things that adults in India cannot watch. You get a sense of absurd. I just get the feeling of déjà vu. Well, here’s the list of cuts demanded by CBFC.

Most of them have to do with scenes of “humping”, kissing and cuss words in Hindi. We have seen worse on primetime news. You hear worse if you take a bus ride in Delhi.

In the story of Babumoshai Bandookbaaz, the real drama happened when this list of 48 snips was handed to Kiran Shroff, the producer of the film.

Without any editing, this is how Kiran explained what transpired in the meeting, according to IANS. “They (CBFC members) had a one hour of discussion. We were very restless. We did expect a barrage of objections which would be raised. We were fine with A certification, but asked about 48 cuts. We asked, ‘Why so many cuts when we are getting A (certificate) anyway?’. They said because kids also watch an A film.”

Sounds silly? Well, we have not even touched on the crux of the matter. Here’s what CBFC members told her, in her own words, “They (CBFC members) said you can explain why such objectionable words and scenes are there in the film. A lady questioned me, ‘How could you make a film like this despite being a woman yourself?’ A gentleman said, ‘How can she be a woman as she is wearing a pant and shirt?’. I was stunned.” Not happy with censoring films, CBFC now wants to censor how women dress. The mind boggles just wondering what will come next.

As of now Babumoshai Bandookbaaz has decided to approach Film Certification Appellate Tribunal. The story of this film may be nearing its conclusion but this theatre of absurd will start again soon. It will be another film, another sanskaari issue.

Jayan K Cherian and his Malayalam film Ka Bodyscapes is a case in point. The film deals with homosexuality and religion and has been reviewed four times but Nihalani, say reports, is adamant not to certify it. He would rather ban the film; a trick he tried on Lipstick Under My Burkha before this.

Ka Bodyscapes has been awaiting certification for months and an 18-member team recently travelled to Thiruvananthapuram to review the film after the Kerala High Court issued a notice to Nihalani to announce his verdict on it this year.

The list of what CBFC finds objectionable is long and comprehensive. It is also shocking. CBFC has demanded cuts when films called Mumbai Bombay, they have had issues with homosexuality (Unfreedom, Ka Bodyscapes, Aligarh), the word lesbian (Dum Laga Ke Haisha), the word intercourse (Jab Harry Met Sejal trailer) and the use of names of states in film (Udta Punjab, The Argumentative Indian). The Amartya Sen documentary was also asked to take out words “cow”, “Hindu” and “India”.

Films such as Fifty Shades of Grey were never released in India despite producers agreeing to 70 cuts. A kissing scene from James Bond film Spectre was trimmed. This is just a tip of the veritable iceberg.

Films that got adults-only certificate and yet underwent cuts include Hansal Mehta’s critically-acclaimed Aligarh. One of the cuts actually showed Manoj Bajpayee dozing off in the courtroom that the CBFC thought was contempt of court. Lipstick Under My Burkha had to be re-edited before it was allowed release. After being deemed “fantasy above life” and “lady oriented”, the film underwent below cuts before it released with an adults-only certification.

Udta Punjab makers were asked to make a record 94 cuts to get A-certification. The film released after court intervention.

Nihalani has also argued in the past for censorship on the internet and films being shown at international festivals.

It seems this is what we will be left watching if he succeeds (courtesy Pahlaj Nihalani himself). A good reason, if ever, to cultivate a reading habit.