2017: The year Indian Censor Board became the face of moral policing, politics and patriarchy

Hindustan Times, New Delhi | By
Dec 31, 2017 08:54 AM IST

From Padmavat(i), Mersal and Sexy Durga to Lipstick Under My Burkha, the Central Board of Certification was busy policing creativity.

The year 2017 ends with uncertainty over the release date of period drama Padmavat(i) that faced a wave of protests, threats to lead actor Deepika Padukone and overzealous censors.The Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC), better known as the censor board, cited technical reasons and missing documents to deny clearance to the film, forcing the filmmakers to defer its release.

Padmavati to Sexy Durga, here’s a list of nine films that went head to head with the censor boards in 2017.
Padmavati to Sexy Durga, here’s a list of nine films that went head to head with the censor boards in 2017.

CBFC chief Prasoon Joshi denied that the decision was influenced by the protests when media questioned the denial of the certificate, which coincided with the protests against the alleged “distortion of historic facts” in the film.

Now that the CBFC has invited historians and former royals to watch the film and has rated it U/A, we can’t help but wonder if Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s film fell prey to poll politics.

Padmavat(i) was not alone. The censor board had a busy year policing creativity. Here’s a list:


The CBFC certified the Tamil film as U/A and that, too, a day before its release. The reason: a ‘no objection certificate’ from AWBI, which was not submitted by the filmmakers.

Sounds plausible.

But right after the film released, the BJP’s Tamil Nadu cell took offence to a dialogue that criticised goods and services tax. Things got ugly and politicians even dragged lead actor Vijay’s religion into the mix. When the filmmakers approached the CBFC to certify the Telugu version, they were refused and the release had to be postponed.

Jab Harry Met Sejal

The Shah Rukh Khan-Anushka Sharma starrer got into trouble because the then censor board chief, Pahlaj Nihalani, found word intercourse offensive. He had a problem as one of trailers shown on TV used the word intercourse.

Babumoshai Bandookbaaz

The censor board went after this Nawazuddin Siddiqui with a scissor. It suggested 48 cuts before giving an A certificate to the film. One of the cuts was “to reduce by 80% the visuals of humping during love making”.

The flick must be one of those rare adult films in which cuss words are beeped out. Producer Kiran Shyam Shroff, too, faced the music. She told at a mediapersons that she was asked, “How could you make this film being a woman?” The makers approached Film Certification Appellate Tribunal (FCAT) that gave the movie an “A” certificate and asked for seven to eight cuts.

Lipstick Under My Burkha

The biggest controversy of the year was when Alankrita Shrivastava’s film Lipstick Under My Burkha was refused clearance for being “lady-oriented”. The rejection letter went viral, causing outrage.

The fact that the film earned world-wide acclaim for the representation of women on screen mattered little to the censors.

Producer Prakash Jha had to approach FCAT for certification for the film that was received very well.

Anaarkali of Aarah

The film, with Swara Bhaskar as the lead, is about a raunchy singer-dancer who performs in villages of Bihar. The film centred around the importance of consent and received a great response.

Before the release though, a few film clips, said to be censored, were leaked. It emerged that the censor board had asked that references to Amitabh Bachchan, and mentions of Sundar Kand and Arjun be edited out of dialogues for fear of hurting sentiments.

S Durga, nee Sexy Durga

Directed by Sanal Kumar Sasidharan, this independent film had to fight a lonely battle as it was not backed by a big banner.

The film faced trouble at the International Film Festival of India (IFFI) at Goa. It was also refused censor exemption for being screened at the MAMI film festival because the I&B ministry felt it would “affect the law and order as it hurts religious sentiments”.

The film received U/A certificate on the condition that Sexy be dropped from the title. The makers renamed it S Durga.

But the film couldn’t be shown at IFFI, which saw director Sujoy Ghosh quit as the Goa festival jury chief.


It is a love story of a married teacher played by Nawazuddin Siddiqui and a high school student played by Shweta Tripathi.

It is a sensitive topic but every filmmaker has a right to express herself and be creative. The BAFTA-nominated film fought a year-long battle with the censors. In an interview to Financial Express, producer Guneet Monga said the CBFC told her that Haraamkhor was is not a film suitable for India. The film got A certificate but with two major cuts that would have altered the film. The filmmakers approached FCAT. It was after six months the film received a U/A certificate and was released to a limited screens.


The makers of this Tamil film were the most creative in their dealings with the censor board.

They accepted the A certificate because they felt the U/A was not worth the cuts the CBFC was asking for. They then used it as a marketing ploy by releasing newspaper ads. One of the memorable quotes was, “According to the censor board, when men drink ‘on the rocks’ it is U/A, if a woman was to do the same, it is A. Hence Taramani is A.”

Ka Bodyscapes

The news of CBFC refusing to certify in Malayalam indie film came within days of the Lipstick Under My Burkha fiasco.

The fight began in April 2016 when the CBFC in Thiruvananthapuram refused to certify the film. The reason, said Indian Express, was the film “glorified the subject of gay and homosexual relationship”.

The board also felt the film denigrated Hindu religion as it portrayed Hanuman as gay. Filmmaker Cherian turned to court, which gave the board 30 days to certify the film. The CBFC dug in and after a prolonged drama, the censor board gave its nod but only after four cuts. The film was certified as ‘A’.

Author tweets @Priyanka_S_MCC
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