At the world premiere of her debut Hollywood film Baywatch, Priyanka Chopra warned her fans back home to not take their kids for the movie - because if the trailers weren’t good enough an indication - the film is going to be overflowing with raunchy humour.
Indeed, the first aspect audiences took away from the previews held at the 2017 Las Vegas CinemaCon were scenes in which Priyanka dropped the F-bomb and Zac Efron inspected a dead body’s testicles.
The trailers were loaded with innuendos and gross-out gags, keeping with the tone established by famous Hollywood R-rated comedies like The Hangover and the Jump Street movies. And to top it all off, the film is a reboot of the hugely-popular TV show that ran through the ‘90s, and was known for its gratuitous slow-mo runs, and skimpy swimsuits.
But this begs the most important question: Will we get to see any of this - the film’s USP - in India, whose infamous CBFC (known informally as the censor board) is famous for chopping everything from kissing scenes, the names of states, and in one isolated instance, the sight of cranberry juice.
Baywatch has been rated R by the MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America, their equivalent of the CBFC). The official advisory warns that the film will be restricted to audiences above the age of 18 (unless they are accompanied by an adult), “for crude sexual content, language throughout and graphic nudity.”
In India, the co-relation has no bearing on what rating it will receive. While it can be said with certainty that the movie will be rated ‘A’, we’ve often seen films that receive the much milder PG-13 rating in the US get a restrictive ‘A’ in India. The most recent example that attracted similar debate was Vin Diesel and Deepika Padukone’s xXx: The Return of Xander Cage.The film received a ‘U/A’ rating, but not without some controversial cuts, one of which included a shot of Vin Diesel’s character sipping cranberry juice and soda in bar - perhaps because the CBFC mistook it for alcohol.
You can read the leaked list of cuts here:
In November 2016, Oscars-favourite La La Land, a film celebrated and acclaimed for appealing to audiences of all ages, was slapped with an ‘A’ certificate in India - which was blamed on the studio. Viacom 18 was forced to accept the board’s diktats, or face the very real possibility of having their film delayed.
A scene featuring a homosexual encounter was completely removed from the eventual Best Picture winner Moonlight, which was also rated ‘A’.
Here’s the letter sent to Nihalani by Viacom, debating the rating of La La Land.
Behind all this controversy is Pahlaj Nihalani, the CBFC’s chief. In a rambling interview with Sidhanth Adlakha, writer for movie website Birth.Movies.Death. in January, he declared that he rarely even watches the films that are submitted for certification. “I don’t see any (films), I just make them go through the examining committee. I don’t see a single movie, because as per rules I can’t see any movie. Okay? In two years, only one hundred and fifty movies have gone on to the revising committee. Out of those one hundred and fifty movies, I must have seen thirty,” he said.
But he is the first to slam filmmakers for making movies that don’t gel with his sensibilities. “The first thing is, sanskaar in our country is valuable, and there’s a respect for sanskaar,” he said.
Among the recent movies that have faced the wrath of the CBFC in India are Ranveer Singh’s Befikre, from which Nihalani proudly claims to have removed “at least forty or fifty kisses”.
Here’s the list of cuts recommended for The Hateful Eight
Quentin Tarantino’s blood-soaked Western The Hateful Eight (from which the phrase ‘sales pitch’ was muted, possibly because someone misheard it for something else), and Ryan Reynolds’ superhero satire Deadpool (which was given seven cuts), also came out with injuries after a battle with the board. “We are very clear that films made for adult viewing won’t be cut if they do not contravene censorial guidelines,” Nihalani had said on that occasion to Subhash K Jha, clearly forgetting that seven cuts have indeed been made to a film rated A.
So in the end, Baywatch seems to have little chance of staying afloat in India. A film which is using its raunchiness as a selling point in the marketing, and whose stars waste no chance in warning audiences about its tone will be utterly destroyed by the ‘sanskaari’ board.
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