By Shambhavi Saxena for Cake:
In an on-going game of unreasonable censorship, the Central Board of Film Certification has risen to the occasion once more. This time, it has clamped down on a new music video by Delhi-based band Friends of Linger.
Titled “Miss You,” the video was conceptualised by filmmaker Manav Singh Malvai, and follows a fairly standard love-song narrative. It just so happens that it’s about two men. And when the band approached the Board, they were given an “A” certificate.
According to Sharif D. Rangnekar, a singer-songwriter behind the track, there is nothing in the video that warrants the label “adult.” The band had the option to appeal for a review, which they did, and Cake spoke with Rangnekar about what followed.
“The last formal communication from them said if we cut the scenes between 3.55 to 4.05 – which they called ‘intimate’–they will give us a ‘U/A certificate,” he said.
Rangnekar describes the 10 seconds in question: “It’s a scene of separation. It’s not there to create some kind of noise that ‘oh my god two men in a video kissing!’ And this was watched by my mother. She’s 75 years old, and if she can be so open and liberal and understand the story, I don’t know how the censor board doesn’t get it.”
Rangnekar is convinced of the awful double standard at work here. “There’s quite a bit of stuff shown in mainstream Hindi entertainment, which is technically watched a lot more than music channels, which should be ‘adult.’ They’re okay with commodifying women, they’re okay with rape, and they endorse a lot of crime with what they certify!”
Far from being criminal, the video for “Miss You” is actually delightful to see when you think of representation.
“There was no preconceived idea that we have to do a ‘gay video,’” says Rangnekar, who is one of the two men in the video. “The story is my own. I can’t show a woman – I’d be lying through my teeth. So I approached it in the most honest manner.”
Their earlier music video “Head Held High,” which was very pointedly about the LGBTQ community in India, had taken only a few days to be passed by the Board. But its response to “Miss You” smacks of an unuttered prejudice.
The usual justifications given for this kind of censorship is that Indian audiences just aren’t ready to see this things yet. “I don’t buy that,” says Rangnekar. “Indian audiences are ready for a lot of things, and they can surprise you. Look at the kind of stories which are hitting the cinema or the kind of stories being reported by the press!”
When same-sex love is so poorly represented in so much of Indian media, this video, and the artists behind it, are making an important contribution to a much larger conversation. So while the issue with the Board yet to be resolved, it’s heartening to see Friends of Linger sticking to its guns and what it believes in. These friends include Delhi-based artists like Anindo Bose of Advaita, Smiti Malik of Chayan & Smiti, Adhir Ghosh and Siddharth Jain of Kitchensink, and Steve Peters from Five8, among others. And their name is inspired by “ling,” the Hindi word for “gender.”
“It’s inclusive of man, woman, the third gender,” explains Rangnekar. “And together they can be more productive. That’s how we saw it. And we also looked at how nice things linger with you – music, friends, things that count.”
Among some of the things that count are gender, women’s rights, sexual violence, religion, individual identity, and even the role of mainstream press, all of which finds mention in their songs. And making sure that we have the kind of media we’ve always wanted? Definitely something that counts.