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Why This Bipolarity, Mr Nihalani?

Begum Jaan


Why This Bipolarity, Mr Nihalani?

Begum Jaan and the quandaries of the Censor Board

Begum Jaan, a gritty movie about sex workers fighting for their livelihood and home in the Partition era, has been given an ‘A’ certificate by the CBFC with no cuts. The CBFC has also passed certain cuss words and phrases it generally doesn’t let through, saying that the context of the scenes justifies their usage.

This is commendable, and entirely unexpected! Moves like this one go to show that Indian movie censors are increasingly exhibiting a level of maturity and sensitivity, hitherto glaringly absent.

But what happened with Lipstick Under My Burkha then? Is Indian female sexuality the altar where this maturity, sensitivity and sense goes to die? Or is the CBFC as star-struck as anyone else? Why else would independent movies struggle so hard, just to pass through the massive scissors of the ominous-sounding “Censor Board”, and movies with popular actors sail through?

The Curious Case Of Censor Cuts

So why exactly do certain movies sail through, while others get stuck, their scenes cut, or eventually released as a watered down version?

Let’s examine this on a case-to-case basis. Befikre, with a total of 12 kisses, a lingerie-clad Ranveer Singh, and umpteen scenes glorifying civil offenses in a foreign country, zoomed through with no cuts and a U/A certificate. Apparently this movie about millennials hooking up, appealed to the very-sanskari, “Alok-Nath-on-steroids” Pahlaj Nihalani, because the kisses and making out in the movie were, according to him, “manifestations of love”.

What’s hilarious is that while Mr Nihalani misinterprets casual sex and hooking up as “love”, he clearly had a problem with a woman describing sex with her (possibly long-term) boyfriend, comparing it to playing a guitar, in an irreverently funny scene from Angry Indian Goddesses. Anushka Manchanda hilariously mouths this whistle-worthy dialog, referring to her boyfriend, in a scene that made the CBFC shudder.

For a man who judges the vulgarity of kisses on their length, and dares to censor a Sooraj Barjatya (*gasp*) movie, it’s not much of a wonder that he also believes in the inherent potency of the Hanuman Chalisa as a desi ghost buster? Someone at the Censor Board has a strange sense of humour, that’s for sure. Why else would this harmless scene from Phillauri have gotten the axe? In keeping with Indian ghost stereotypes, Suraj Sharma starts mumbling lines from the Hanuman Chalisa on encountering a ghost, which does nothing to faze the gusty ghost. Blasphemy! Utter blasphemy! Because how could the desi ghost buster mantra not work? Using the age-old excuse of “religious sentiments”, the CBFC wasted no time in chopping off this harmless, if stereotypical scene.

These instances would have you believe that the Censor Board is like the nosy neighbour who is regressive to the core. But no. Grand Masti, a quintessential bro-flick starring three lecherous perverts with persistently erect…well, hair, and a million innuendoes did manage a few cuts, but also got away with blatantly sexual depictions.

This constant flip-flopping from sanskari to perverted to downright laughable, has the populace wondering if the CBFC is for real.

Sense & Censorship

Let’s not try to make sense of the quandaries of the Censor Board. Do they really watch, scrutinise and analyse every movie that comes under the scanner, or do they just snip scenes at random?

Random or not, one thing’s for sure. Someone up there at the Censor Board certainly has a very twisted sense of humour. And I’m sure we have a good idea who that someone could be. Why these bipolar tendencies, Mr Nihalani?

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The writer is based out of Pune, and can be found writing inane listicles, ala Buzzfeed, rebelling against authority, and feeding stray cats

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