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Rezwan |

In India, films on sexuality and feminism continue to fall under the axe of the censor board. In recent times, two movies failed to get permission for screening, which created a lot of debate across the country.

Although the Constitution of India guarantees freedom of expression, it places certain restrictions on content, in order to protect communal and religious harmony and control obscenity.

Read more: Amitabh Bachchan’s 15 Best Films of All Time

The regulatory film body of India is the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC), which is usually harsh on film content, especially sex, nudity, violence or any other subjects that may be considered politically subversive.

Although the Constitution of India guarantees freedom of expression, it places certain restrictions on content, in order to protect communal and religious harmony and control obscenity.

India is one of the largest and oldest producers of films in the world. Around 1,600 films in various languages of India are produced annually in industries nicknamed as Bollywood, Tollywood etc. But the industries are fighting irrational censorship on some films which cross the moral boundary, according to the the CBFC.

Often, the interpretation of the 1952 cinematography law is vague and the board can ask for multiple cuts and edits in certain films.

Read more: Should Indian movies be banned in Pakistani cinema! Why?

They had requested, for instance, that the word “lesbian” be muted in the romantic comedy “Dum Laga Ke Haisha”, and asked the filmmakers behind “Udta Punjab”, a film about drug abuse, to make 94 cuts, including the removal of expletives, references to cities in Punjab and any shots of drugs being consumed.

The Udta Punjab team challenged the decision in court and the film was finally released with just one cut when the court ruled in its favor.

Lipstick Under My Burkha

In January 2017, the Central Board of Film Certification denied a theatrical release to Alankrita Shrivastava’s film about female empowerment, “Lipstick Under My Burkha”.

The story is about the secret lives of four women of different ages in small town India and their desire for independence — all while they explore their sexuality.

Often, the interpretation of the 1952 cinematography law is vague and the board can ask for multiple cuts and edits in certain films.

According to the letter from the board to the producer, national award-winning filmmaker Prakash Jha, “The story is lady oriented, their fantasy above life.

There are contentious sexual scenes, abusive words, audio pornography and a bit sensitive touch about one particular section of society, hence film refused”.

The film has already been screened abroad and did well in international festivals. In 2016, the film won the Spirit of Asia award at the Tokyo International Film Festival, and the Oxfam award for Best Film on Gender Equality at the Mumbai Film Festival. In 2017, it received the Glasgow Film Festival Audience Award.

Read more: When Indians were featured in Pakistani cinema

On social media, some netizens expressed discontent that the movie did not get support from other Indian filmmakers regarding the ban:

Others found it too feminist:

 

The director, Alankrita Shrivastava, vowed to fight for release of the movie in India:

People are protesting and debating the censorship issue, both online and offline. Meanwhile, as Indian society becomes more open, Bollywood filmmakers are becoming braver and bolder with the cinematic themes they choose to explore — so in the future, we may see fiercer battles with the censor board, unless the age-old laws and acts are revised and updated.

 

Rezwan is from Dhaka, Bangladesh and he has been blogging at The 3rd world view since 2003.He has been bridgeblogging the Bangladeshi and South Asian Blogosphere in Global Voices since 2005. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Global Village Space’s editorial policy. This piece was first published in Global Voices.

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