By Mayank Jain:
“What is freedom of expression? Without the freedom to offend, it ceases to exist.” â€• Salman Rushdie
You go into aÂ theatre with a bunch of your friends who are allÂ majors and eligible to drink, to be specific, and expect a good documentary on sexuality or just an entertaining movie with some corny humour and Bollywood hallmarked item songs. But, as soon as you are about to pop a popcorn into your mouth when the actors are performing, you notice you can’t see much; most of it has been ‘blurred’ on censor board’s disapproval on showing something sexual or ‘immoral’ on the screen. How would you feel at that moment? Not being able to watch a bold attempt by the director to bring out human sexuality without cuts and blurs is saddening and disrespectful to both the audiences and the people who made the movie.
It goes for every movie. Cinematic liberty is a lost cause here in India because we love to judge things before we even come across them and experience them. We love to classify them into ‘suitable’ and ‘not suitable’, and then begins our favourite pastime of invading everyone’s right to choose by forcing our opinions on them. Actress Rupali Krishnarao, who plays a prostitute in Asshu Trikha’s movie called “Koyelaanchal” is the victim of Censor Board’s clampdown on the display of female cleavage. The scenes have been blurred at multiple places where the board members found the display of flesh too much for the Indian audiences to handle.
There are so many angles to this hypocritical and completely unproductive decision by the Censor Board as it is already fighting its perception of being conservative from previous such cuts made to important parts of a movie just to suit ‘Indian Cinema Culture’, whatever that is. I will attempt to bring them point by point here:
1. Blur Male Cleavages Too: We all love Salman Khan’s bare chest or Shahrukh in a transparent shirt like he wore in Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham which was released 13 years back. If female cleavage or breasts are objects of sexual immorality, then why do we not blur the male chest as well? The case of LGBTs here is beyond the comprehension of censor board so I will leave it to that. Shouldn’t all the males fight for their ‘dignity’ too and ask their bodies to be blurred and prevent rapes?
2. Making Sex A Taboo: The honourable members of Censor Board are in a dire need of a visit to Khajuraho if they think that display of sexuality is not in the Indian culture. The monuments there, celebrate sexuality with depictions from the medieval period itself. Thankfully, they have not been censored yet. By censoring things as simple as a little show of flesh, we are giving the message that Indian audience is not ready to see sex on the screen yet, forget being open about it to have a discourse.
3. Blurring Complete Bodies: If female breasts do have sexual connotations and need to be blurred, then which part of us isn’t born out of sex? Aren’t we all walking proofs of the human ability to reproduce and make love? Also, who said that only breasts/chests can be objects of sexual desire? What if the censor board decides to blur the lips of people next, because they seem to be ‘asking for it’? Would you be able to tolerate your favourite actor with blurry smudges on his luscious lips? I wouldn’t.
4. Killing Creativity: A director and story-writer spends all his waking hours warding off sleep and coming up with a riveting story that people remember for a long time and Censor Board decides to simply cut the most integral parts of it just because they happen to be about sex? How fair is that to the whole team? India produces maximum films in a year: about 900. Don’t we have the right to see whatever we want on the screen?
5. Giving Way To More Censorship: Today it’s the blurring, tomorrow it will turn into cuts and soon we might see movies without even the slightest mention of the world ‘love’. Because, “hey we all know what immorality ‘love’ leads to”. Censorship has no ends and the downward spiral which will lead to descending into a country with no tolerance for any reality is a worrisome imagery that can bring back haunting memories. If Zeenat Aman could display a lot more cleavage 36 years ago, in Satyam Shivam Sundaram, what has changed now? Why are we going back to the dark intolerant ages?
Cinema is the reflection of the society as it exists and if we go ahead and try to make it perfect without improving upon the reality, it will only add to the delusion. Can’t we be open to ideas as they are and not judge them? Can’t we let the audience be the judge of what they would want to watch and what not? With UA/A/U ratings already in place for the movies, people know what they are going for when they enter the theatres and surprising them with diluted portrayal of ideas that the filmmaker’s mind conceived is as dishonest as it is imposing.
Can we all stand up for the right to exist, for bolder cinema? Right to give offbeat yet truly representative movies like BA Pass, Udaan, Dev D, and Dil Dosti Etc. a chance to be seen by the world? The Censor Board has its job well cut out here: To edit cinema where it offends a section of the community and filter out the scenes which might be ‘harmful’ for the cinema industry or the country as a whole.
Dear Censor Board authorities, the first food for a new born child comes from the breasts itself so it is not as unnatural as you might believe it is. Please realize the realities of human existence and censor only when it’s needed to protect interests, not when you think it will be immoral to let a movie pass without any cuts. Nobody’s going to judge you if you don’t censor.
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