The newly recast Pahlaj Nihalani-headed censor board has just read out a prudish script to filmmakers, seeking to bring back a moral code that appeared to be easing in the recent years.
In a circular sent to the producers’ association and regional officers on February 11, the Central Board of Film Certification has said that several “objectionable words” were still being used in films and directed its regional officers to ensure a ban on a list of cuss words. It also aimed to seek more conformity from directors and scriptwriters on cultural matters and political correctness.
For instance, “Bombay”, the colonial name of India's financial capital — changed to Mumbai in 1995 — isn't acceptable. The new censor board comprises members mostly formally or informally associated with the ruling BJP.
The circular — doing the rounds on Twitter on Friday — prompted several users on the social networking site including censor board member Ashoke Pandit to express outrage over the move. “I as a Filmmaker & #CBFC board member do not endorse the list issued by the Chairperson On words not to be used in films.I ws nt consulted (sic),” Pandit tweeted. “The list of words 'not to be used in films' issued by the Chairperson is against the freedom & creative liberty of a filmmaker,” another tweet by Pandit read.
I as a Filmmaker & #CBFC board member do not endorse the list issued by the Chairperson On words not to be used in films.I ws nt consulted.— Ashoke Pandit (@ashokepandit) February 13, 2015
The list of words 'not to be used in films' issued by the Chairperson is against the freedom & creative liberty of a filmmaker. #CBFC— Ashoke Pandit (@ashokepandit) February 13, 2015
The circular lists 15 Hindi and 13 English cuss words that are prohibited. It also bans “double meanings of words”, “showing 'violence against women”, and says “bloodshed should not be glorified”. The board mentions that Bombay should be replaced with Mumbai. Anurag Kashyap’s forthcoming film starring Ranbir Kapoor and Anushka Sharma is titled ‘Bombay Velvet’.
On February 2, the board blurred out ‘Bombay’ from a music video by artist Mihir Joshi.
“These are old guidelines but were not being followed. After the film Omkara, using cuss words have become the norm. We have to protect our culture,” censor board chief Nihalani told HT.
“The words the Censor Board does not want you to hear, a.k.a words every kid already knows,” filmmaker Danish Aslam said after the circular became public. “This is so regressive. Bollywood can't be a soft power without freedom. You can't stop an elephant with cobwebs,” filmmaker Mahesh Bhatt said.
A producer himself, chairperson Nihalani had earlier said the board would not take recourse to moral policing while certifying films.