Of ‘Spectre’, Censor Board & a James Bond Kiss That Will be Missed

If censorship has to be implemented, its dos and don’ts have to be categorically defined, writes Khalid Mohamed.

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Entertainment
5 min read
Deepika Padukone and Ranbir Kapoor in a still from <i>Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani</i>.

At this very moment, Indians don’t kiss, they don’t use curse words and Indian women may have to cover up their cleavage too, and pronto. What has been scintillating about Sunny Leone, Mallika Sherawat and Malaika Arora may become history very soon.

So you know already that James Bond’s Spectre lips have been snipped. The cucumber cool Casanova can’t mutter profanities any more either. Profanities, did I say? Well, I keep hearing far more objectionable stuff inside and outside multiplexes. But asshole and bastard? Nope. Our dear 007 just doesn’t possess the licence to loosen his tongue anymore.

In fact, the Pahlaj Nihalani-steered Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC), on a swachh-cinema campaign, is in clear and present danger of sanitising movies, to the extent of reducing sexy super spies to Donald Ducks.

What oh what then, is the future of the Sultan of Smooch, Emraan Hashmi? Without those lustrous lip-locks his movies would have flunked the money-making test, wouldn’t they? No Bheege honth tere, no passing the grade with flying colours.

By the way, Ranbir Kapoor and Deepika Padukone have been prevented by the censors from getting too cosy for comfort in their upcoming film Tamasha. And director Imtiaz Ali has had to grin and groan it, since a confrontation with the censors would mean taking panga with the nation’s most quixotic scissor-hands.

Kiss Kiss ko Roku?

Monica Bellucci passionately kisses Daniel Craig in <i>Spectre</i>, but the CBFC isn’t impressed. (Photo: Youtube screengrab)
Monica Bellucci passionately kisses Daniel Craig in Spectre, but the CBFC isn’t impressed. (Photo: Youtube screengrab)

Citing precedents about previous killer kisses allowed for universal consumption is an exercise in futility. So what if a classic silent film served a hundred-plus lipsmacks? Devika Rani, the redoubtable empress of yore, was never shy of expressing her physical ardour either. In later years, Rishi Kapoor and Dimple Kapadia went the lippy-lippy way in Bobby, ditto for Mandakini and Rajiv Kapoor in Ram Teri Ganga Maili, Aamir Khan grabbed Karisma Kapoor for passion play in Raja Hindustani.

The birds and the bees do it. So have Deepika Padukone, Kangana Ranaut and Kareena Kapoor, with heroes of as many varieties as shades of lipstick.

My idea is not to laundry list the showbiz darlings who have kissed and lived or to fill up website space with downloadable pics. Rather, the idea is to point a finger at the arbitrariness of it all. What’s one couple’s prerogative can’t be another twosome’s poison, can it?

The snag is that the censor code remains as hazy as the kohraas which affect airplane landings in Delhi during the height of winter. Evidently, the Censor Board likes fogs. Imprint it on paper, with clarity, if there are to be kisses or not. It’s as simple as that.




Devika Rani and Himanshu Rai in Karma (1933) (Photo: Youtube screengrab)
Devika Rani and Himanshu Rai in Karma (1933) (Photo: Youtube screengrab)

Or else, filmmakers could well return to the days of rubbing roses, tulips or what have you. Violently. Or bicycles could fall once again on top of each other during a thunderstorm. (Reference: the Yash Chopra directed Dhool ka Phool). That ‘cycle crush’ had resulted in an impregnated Mala Sinha.

Bicycles apart, it’s all a game of roulette really. If a film is submitted before a panel comprising members who’re believed to be lenient, then all’s well and that’s swell. If the panelists happen to be prudish, then heaven help your goatee. To cite a personal example, I had to almost tear off the bristles on my chin, to convince an examining committee, that my intentions were strictly honourable.

Snapshot

Kissing Matters

  • The CBFC is in clear and present danger of sanitising movies, to the extent of reducing sexy super spies to Donald Ducks.
  • Getting a film approved by the censor board is like a game of roulette.
  • It’s commonly believed that film censorship reflects the personality – progressive or regressive – of its chief.
  • Censorship of any form is arguable, if it has to be implemented its dos and don’ts have to be categorically defined.

To Reveal or Not to Reveal

To my horror, on submitting my film Tehzeeb for censorship aeons ago, objections were raised to Urmila Matonkdar revealing a hint of cleavage in a scene where she’s serving a meal to her family. She had committed the folly of leaning over a dinner plate. A woman panelist of the examining committee cried blue murder, “Not done!”

The offending cleavage was eventually cleared, when I argued, “Ma’am the costume was tight, it couldn’t be helped. Moreover, in the next shot, Urmila is wearing a black polo neck which covers her up right to the neck.”

A spell of eerie silence later, the anti-cleavage lady huffed, “Okay but don’t do it again.”

Udita Goswami kissing Emraan Hashmi in Aksar (2006). (Photo: Youtube screengrab)
Udita Goswami kissing Emraan Hashmi in Aksar (2006). (Photo: Youtube screengrab)

Actually, I did, seguing into kisses galore for a scene in Silsilaay (okay no one remembers this flick, fair enough) in which Riya Sen was trying to find out what the big deal is about a girl venting her sexual desires.

The censor screening over, I was called in by the panel to say, “Your film is about women empowerment. We have not objected to the kisses because they make a point (sic).” I almost broke into a thunderous jig. Thank you.

Frankly, like most filmmakers, I had taken care to elongate the kiss footage, absolutely convinced that I would be ordered to shorten the kisses by half or more. In that case, I lucked out. Length didn’t matter.

Watch Your Mouth, Mr Bond

The Spectre case is yet another instance which has dumbfounded me. How to toe the Censor Board line? You’re damned (in your own eyes) if you do, and damned (in their eyes) if you don’t. Is this what they call a catch-22 situation? Make that catch-22222, give or take a 2, really.

It’s commonly believed that film censorship reflects the personality – progressive or regressive – of its chief. Pahlaj Nihalani, whom I’ve known for ages, always appeared to me an enlightened soul, eager to remedy the miscellaneous ills afflicting Mumbai’s ever-fecund film industry.

The scene from Raja Hindustani (1996) which scorched our screens. (Photo: Youtube screengrab)
The scene from Raja Hindustani (1996) which scorched our screens. (Photo: Youtube screengrab)

Alas, the politician in him has taken over. He has made a documentary on Prime Minister Narendra Modi, without realising that the propaganda therein is as transparent as muslin. It can have the effect of being counter-productive.

That’s Nihalani’s call entirely. Perhaps, he will see the light at the end of the projector some day.

The way film censorship is springing up new surprises, of the questionable kind, every new day isn’t his call though. Censorship in any form is arguable. If it has to be implemented, its dos and don’ts have to be categorically defined.

Till that’s done, James Bond will have to be keep his mouth, half-unzipped.

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