For decades now, the Indian censor board has been deciding what cinema-goers must and must not watch, snipping away anything that looks or sounds controversial to them. Films have been banned for multiple reasons such as explicit or inflammatory content, violence, and nudity.
Filmmakers also have to be careful not to hurt people’s religious sentiments! A case in point is Padmavati, which led to massive outrage by the Rajput community and certain political fringe groups too. It got cleared for release only after the makers changed its name and story angle.
Whether censorship is valid or not is another debate for another day. Meanwhile, take a look at these 5 controversial films that were banned in India. Which of these would you like to watch?
1. Sikkim (1971)
From the legendary director Satyajit Ray, this 60-minute documentary was filmed after being commissioned by the then king of sovereign Sikkim, Palden Thondup Nangyal. Sikkim only merged with India in 1975, and the film was then banned by the government.
Since then, it was screened only once at a film festival in Kolkata in 2010 — only to be banned again after a stay order from a Sikkim court.
Why was it banned: The film showed that the sovereignty of Sikkim was threatened by both, India and China, at the time.
2. Paanch (2003)
Anurag Kashyap has been at loggerheads with the censor board ever since he entered the arena of filmmaking. Many of his films have faced temporary bans and court cases, and have only released after multiple cuts and edits.
One of his earliest projects, Paanch, faced a ban and was later released with cuts. Even so, the film never saw the light of day. It has been screened at various film festivals in India and abroad though.
Why was it banned: The film glorified violence, sex, and drug abuse.
3. Unfreedom (2014)
Unfreedom was directed by Raj Amit Kumar and the movie’s sound design was done by Resul Pookutty (who bagged an Academy Award for Slumdog Millionaire).
A one of a kind drama, it received great support from Indian millennials even after being banned by the government. Private screenings of the film were held at different venues, including IIT Mumbai. The director has refused to make the changes recommended by film certification board, and continues to send petitions to Indian authorities.
Why was it banned: The film boldly portrayed same-sex relationships, and talked about the life of a fundamentalist Muslim in New York.
4. Kaum de Heere (2014)
Punjabi film Kaum de Heere (which translates to gems of the community) is based on the story of Satwant Singh and Beant Singh, who assassinated former PM Indira Gandhi. Her death was followed by widespread anti-Sikh riots in Punjab, Delhi, and other parts of the country, claiming many lives. The film faced objection from both, the Congress and BJP.
Why was it banned: Kaum de Heere glorified the two assassinators as heroes of the Sikh community, who avenged the Golden Temple attack by the Indian Army.
5. Mohalla Assi (2015)
With Sunny Deol and Sakshi Tanwar in the lead, the film is based on the novel Kashi Ka Assi by Dr Kashi Nath Singh. It gets its name from Varanasi’s popular Assi Ghat.
Mohalla Assi deliberates upon the problem of commercialisation of religion in the holy city, and is based on the Ram Temple agitation of the 90s.
The film was meant to release in 2015. After a two-year-long battle, it will finally hit the screens some time this year, with an ‘A’ certification.
Why was it banned: For hurting religious sentiments and also for the use of explicit language. It got leaked on the internet before its official release.
As you can see, films have been facing restrictions in India for years, and filmmakers are expected to adhere to a certain set of norms. So much for freedom of speech!
What’s your take on censorship in cinema? Share your views in the comments below.
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