Dear CBFC, How Dare You Ban a Gem of a Film Like ‘Haraamkhor’?

The ‘Haraamkhor’ vs CBFC battle makes it clear that the board is just a bunch of clueless ‘officials’.

4 min read
Dear CBFC, How Dare You Ban a Gem of a Film Like ‘Haraamkhor’?

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Last night I walked out after watching Haraamkhor feeling very agitated. I had just watched a rare Hindi film that could be subtle yet searing and quirky yet poignant at the same time. My agitation was born out of the fact that I couldn’t believe that a bunch of 'officials’ sitting as members of India’s Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) had just a few months back declared that the film did not merit a certificate and had technically ‘banned’ the film.


It upset me that we had vested the power to select what we should see and not see into the hands of a group of intellectually, creatively and artistically bankrupt ‘officers’ who had found a film like Haraamkhor offensive because it revolved around an “illicit relationship between a teacher and a teenage student”.

This bunch could just see the bricks and mortar of the film - they were blind to the splendour of its narrative, deaf to the sounds in its silences, and unaffected by the magnificence of its performers.

Why do we even bemoan the quality of Indian cinema when we have the CBFC dressed up as butchers waiting to decapitate the first indication of any creative form that dares to break the mould?
The CBFC found Haraamkhor’s ‘theme’ objectionable.

For a crowd that’s brought up on mainstream films that mostly offer the stale ‘feel-good-family-melodrama’ or ‘boy-and-girl-romance-in-exotic-locations’ every Friday, Haraamkhor will be disconcerting because it’s real, which is why the CBFC had a problem with it.


In an official letter sent to the makers of Haraamkhor in June 2016, the reason given by the Board for refusing to certify the film is as follows:

The film deals with the story of a teacher, who is a respectable figure in our society indulging in illicit relation between a teacher and a teenage student. There are many filthy dialogues spoken by kids and body gestures of the kids also found to be objectionable. Kids committing crime etc does not merit any certificate to the film. Hence “Refused” because of its theme itself. 

If only Shlok Sharma’s film was wrapped up in meaningless song and dance routines with vulgar and cheap gimmicks thrown in, the CBFC would have passed it without blinking an eye. Take for example Pahlaj Nihalani’s film Andaz (1994), in which Karisma Kapoor as a schoolgirl tries to win her teacher Anil Kapoor’s attention. Pelvic thrusts, double meaning dialogues, Shakti Kapoor as a schoolboy who peeps up a girl’s skirt - the film has it all packaged in a popular mainstream format and this was found good to go with a ‘U’ certificate back in 1994.

Anil Kapoor gets a lesson in sanskaar  and acceptable ‘theme’ from Karisma Kapoor in Andaz.

Films like Andaz are treated as candy floss entertainment - uncomplicated, straight and easy to digest. We expect nothing out of it except sheer brainless banality in the name of time-pass entertainment.

But if a filmmaker offers a more realistic treatment with a complex, layered narrative in his film, it becomes a bitter pill that we just can’t swallow.

This has more or less become our attitude as a society too when we look around for answers in the post-truth world.

This is what’s wrong. (Image courtesy: Twitter)

Thankfully the makers of Haraamkhor didn’t give up. The team didn’t lose hope even after their second attempt failed, when the Revising Committee at the CBFC gave them an offer to go with an ‘A’ certificate BUT only after significant scenes in the film were be chopped off.

In a communication addressed to the makers of Haraamkhor in July 2016, the Revising Committee responded after watching the film by saying:

I am directed by the Board to inform you that the film has been viewed by the Revising Committee and the Board has come to the conclusion that the film is not suitable for unrestricted public exhibition but may be suitable for public exhibition restricted to adults provided you carry out the excisions / modifications in the film listed in the Annexure...

The Annexure mentioned scenes that the committee wanted cut, if the filmmaker wanted Haraamkhor to see the light of day with an ‘A’ certificate.

As a director, Shlok felt that the prescribed cuts would seriously impair the storyline of his film and took the battle to the Film Certification Appellate Tribunal (FCAT). After a long wait, the tribunal finally agreed to release the film with a ‘UA’ certificate with minimal cuts.

Why cry yourself hoarse over the quality of Hindi cinema when it becomes a struggle to release a film like Haraamkhor?

So basically in India, if you make a seriously good film - you first struggle for a few years to make it and then struggle again to get it released because... hey! it didn’t match the CBFC’s archaic sensibilities.

The Board today looks more like a bunch of disgruntled, dull, fossilised bullies teaming around the brightest boy in the class and talking down to him.

But to learn from Shlok and producer Guneet Monga’s spirited fight - don’t give up, irrespective of how your film eventually does at the box-office, just winning against a bunch of bullies who try to pull you down will surely give you a different high altogether.

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Topics:  CBFC   Guneet Monga   Nawazuddin Siddiqui 

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