Padmavati Joins the Camp of These ‘Dirty Pictures’
When it comes to movies, why do we throw around words like ‘banning’ and ‘censorship’?
When it comes to movies, why do we throw around words like ‘banning’ and ‘censorship’? (Photos: Wikipedia)

Padmavati Joins the Camp of These ‘Dirty Pictures’

“Fictio-aaaaaaaaaaa-nnnnnn!”

If you are tired of screaming your lungs out about Padmavati’s fictionality, you are definitely not alone. Filmmakers, critics, actors, celebrities, twitterati, the media, and (some) common janta are with you.

*screams* “Fictio-aaaaaaaaaaa-nnnnnn!”
*screams* “Fictio-aaaaaaaaaaa-nnnnnn!”
(GIF: Giphy)

Not only Padmavati, the Information and Broadcasting Ministry recently had qualms with words like ‘sexy’ and ‘nude’. This phenomenon is not new. Remember CBFC’s censorship spree under Pahlaj Nihalani? Seems like we are still suffering from its hangover!

Here’s some of the films that have made the CBFC, the Ministry of I&B, and right-wing ‘activists’, like the Rajput Karni Sena, shout in a collective “haaaawwwww!”, and some others which might have garnered the same response, if released in the present day.

This is Complete Blasphemy, and Then Some More!

When it comes to blasphemy — how dare you insult our Gods/Goddesses/religion/godmen/godwomen? — we have some strong candidates.

There is, of course, Amir Khan’s PK (2014) where a humanoid alien (wait... does that mean the movie is fictional?) dares to question the powers of a fraudulent godman. The movie even has a lip-to-lip kissing scene! *gasps*

 The movie even has a lip-to-lip kissing scene!
The movie even has a lip-to-lip kissing scene!
(GIF: Giphy)

No wonder right-wing ‘activists’ in Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh, and Madhya Pradesh, among other States, considered it their ‘God-given’ (godmen-given?) duty to vandalise theatres ahead of the movie’s release.

Par PK se pehle, there were movies that openly ‘made fun’ of Gods. In Sholay (1975), for instance, when Basanti (Hema Malini) pours her heart out to ‘Bhole Baba’ (Lord Shiva), Veeru (Dharmendra), who is hiding behind the God’s idol, takes advantage of the situation to tell her that He has chosen Veeru as her husband-to-be.

How dare a lowly human imitate God and pronounce His word?

 You better run, Veeru!
You better run, Veeru!
(GIF: Giphy)

Sholay, if released today, would have probably come under saffron hammers and scissors!

Movies like Delhi-6 (2009) – which uses the metaphor of a ‘kala bandar’ to expose how superstition feeds into polarisation along religious lines – and Goliyon Ki Rasleela Ram-Leela (2013) – a movie about love, sex, and... religion (how dare you use Ram-Leela in the title?) – are the other candidates for apparent blasphemy.

The not-so-sankari <i>Ram-Leela</i>!
The not-so-sankari Ram-Leela!
(GIF: Giphy)

As far as ‘sanskari’ treatement of mythological events is concerned, this Mahabharata scene from Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro (1983) would probably have not made the cut, if released today.

On the Scale of Immodest to Immoral

Talking about love and sex, some Bollywood relationships would be weighed heavily on the right-wing’s scale of ‘immodest’ to ‘immoral’. A movie like Nishabd (2007) is the case in point.

Nishabd depicts a relationship between a teenage girl and an older man. The movie has a scene where Vijay (Amitabh Bachchan) photographs Jia (Jiah Khan) as she pours water on herself from a garden hose. The camera’s movement in the scene leaves little to the imagination. And there is , *drum roll*, a kissing scene!

If released today, the movie would have definitely made many people pull an Alok Nath. One can already hear the ‘holy’ chant of ‘Ban, ban, ban’ in the background.

Another movie that explores a relationship between a young man and an older woman is Dil Chahta Hai (2007). And if you think that’s ‘objectionable’, don’t forget Cheeni Kum (2007)!

 Toh problem kya hai?
Toh problem kya hai?
(GIF: GramUnion)

Na Bombay, Na Punjab?

The ‘Bombay’ in Bombay Velvet (2015) and the ‘Punjab’ in Udta Punjab (2016) already created many-a-ripple.

After the CBFC beeped out ‘Bombay’ from a Mihir Joshi song, there were talks that the title of Anurag Kashyap’s Bombay Velvet will also have to go through the change. However, Kashyap had defended the title of the movie citing historical accuracy.

Yeh history wala Bombay hai, meri jaan!
Yeh history wala Bombay hai, meri jaan!
(GIF: Giphy)

The ‘Punjab’ in Udta Punjab, however, had entered murkier waters. The CBFC had reportedly demanded 89 cuts in the movie and the removal of the word ‘Punjab’ from the title. There were even some rumours of the film – which brought to focus the issue of substance abuse in Punjab – being banned!

Khola boot, nikla Punjab!
Khola boot, nikla Punjab!
(GIF: Giphy)

Why remove ‘Bombay’ and ‘Punjab’, you ask? A possible reason could be to dust the political and social issues under the carpet. Movies like Udta Punjab as well as Kai Po Che! (2013) – set amidst the 2002 Gujarat riots – and NH10 (2015) – a movie about honour killings – are a sharp reminder that fiction is not too divorced from fact.

How Dirty is the Picture?

While we discuss the many reasons why these movies might be considered ‘dirty’ in 2017, we must also raise a few questions: What makes us take offence so easily? Why do we throw around words like ‘banning’ and ‘censorship’? Why does criticism come with a threat of violence?

Here’s a thought: With freedom of interpretation and expression comes great responsibility. If you want to criticise, write back, talk back. Fight with words not with swords. Pen really is mightier, you guys!

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