Terming it as ‘lady oriented’, the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) had banned the movie ‘Lipstick Under My Burkha’ in February. Two months hence, the film has become eligible for the prestigious Golden Globes Awards.
Despite the film’s positive reception worldwide, it is still fighting a legal battle in its own country.
So, what were the CBFC’s ridiculous reasons this time for banning a movie with a powerful social message?
In a letter issued by CBFC Chairperson Pahlaj Nihalani, he answers the question, clearing (read: adding to) our doubts.
“The story is lady oriented, their fantasy above life. There are continuous sexual scenes, abusive words, audio pornography and a bit sensitive touch about one particular section of society, hence film (is) refused (certification) under guidelines.”
In other words, women in the Indian society are perceived as beings with no wants, needs and desires, and our movies in no way should project them in any other manner, which changes that deeply embedded perception.
Basically, a movie with a powerful social message was banned because of its powerful social message.
And this is not the first time that Pahlaj Nihalani has banned or censored a movie that he feels doesn’t match his ‘sanskaari’ standards.
India’s owes a part of its cultural preservation to the censor board chief.
It all started in 1982, with the pelvis-thrust-in and the bust-thrust-out.
Then came the double meaning dialogues – “Har kisi ke liye ye khirki nahi khulti”.
This was Pahlaj Nihalani’s life as a filmmaker and producer before he so gracefully picked the mantle of Chairperson of CBFC in 2015. Since then, he has been protecting the Indian culture.
The first cleansing that Nihalani did as the new CBFC chief was to ban of a list of swear words from both Hollywood and Bollywood movies.
The list of prescribed words also includes “Bombay”, on the contention that since the name of the city had officially been changed, filmmakers should called it Mumbai only.
Following this, Nihalani’s rampage against non-dharmic movies was unstoppable.
The first movie that he prohibited from releasing in Indian theatres was ‘50 Shades of Grey’ in 2015. Even with 70 cuts, the movie didn’t make it to the theatre. That same year, NH10 was given ‘U’ certificate by Pakistan, but was released as an adult movie in India after 9 scenes were cut. Nihalani called himself a ‘liberal’ by letting the film release because it talks about women empowerment – a subject the CBFC chairperson cares about deeply.
Then the word ‘lesbian’ was muted from the Yash Raj films’ ‘Dum Laga Ke Haisha’ because the L word from a kid’s mouth is inappropriate — a wise decision since homophobia should be instilled in the youth of our nation since childhood.
However, if cuss words, double meaning dialogues, and lewd remarks are uttered by the male fraternity of the Indian film industry, Nihalani has no problem. Movies like ‘Kya Kool Hai Hum 3’ and ‘Mastizaade’ don’t corrupt the Indian minds, only female and LGBT empowerment and sexuality does. The kissing scene in ‘Spectre’ was “too excessive” and nudity in ‘Unfreedom’ was unsanskaari, but Tushar Kapoor holding a beer bottle in front of his crotch and Aftab Shivdasani imitating a pug’s leg as his junk in ‘Kya Kool Hai Hum 3’ poster is decent.
Strong Women Scare Pahlaj Nihalani
Applying lipstick under my burkha is an idea too horrifying for Nihalani. As the guardian of Indian morals, how could he allow the release of a film that sends the message that a burkha is not meant to conceal a woman’s beauty, but to empower her too?
His disapproval of nudity, cuss words uttered by women, and sexual scenes, make him puritanical. But the problem with men like Nihalani is much more rooted.
If a film is made by a woman and it speaks to women about their desires and rights, Nihalani panics, because, in that cultural brain of his, a woman is not meant to be powerful and assertive. She is only meant to stay at home and take care of her husband, family and kids. Sex should not even cross her mind. Women in the film industry play peripheral roles and subservient parts – they are either heroic or pure goddesses. Women can’t be ordinary.
But, the lives of real women aren’t like a cinderella fairy tale where Prince Charming comes to her rescue because she is too weak to fight. Real women struggle every day, feel angry, get aggressive, have sexual desires, and utter swear words when frustrated. Real women are like real men – basic human beings with basic human desires.
Obstructing filmmakers from portraying women as ordinary people coping with life is a breach of their freedom of expression. Indian viewers should be given the opportunity to assess movies themselves. Films with a strong social message only uplift the society and can never cause any damage. If Pahlaj Nihalani really cares about the ‘culture’ of the Indian society, he should first ban the crude movies produced under his name, then censor those films that objectify women.
The Logical Indian strongly condemns the ban on Lipstick Under My Burkha. The CBFC should stop banning movies that carry a powerful social message as films are important for our society.