India’s crazed film censor, Pahlaj Nihalani, is under duress after his decision to make 89 puerile cuts to a film wound up the local film industry, and let to a court battle which ended up humiliating the censor.The film, Udta Punjab , will now be released on Friday with an adults only ‘A’ rating and just one cut.
India’s central Board of Film ‘Classification’ (CBFC) originally demanded 89 cuts. The film board claimed that the movie portrayed Punjab in a bad light. The proposed cuts included removing every mention of the word Punjab from the film, deleting swear words and also a number of other words such as parliament , legislators and elections .
Chief censor Nihalani saw the writing on the wall as the case proceeded to court and reduced the cuts list to 13, but this did not appease his openents.
The court ruled that the film must be certified for release in the next 48 hours with one scene showing a character urinating to be removed.
The producers of the film described the ruling as a victory for democracy. The films makers challenged the censors claim that the film promoted illegal drug use and questioned the integrity of India. The court rejected the censors claims and said:
We have read the script in its entirety to see if the film encourages drugs. We do not find that the film questions the sovereignty or integrity of India by mentioning the names of cities, or referring to a state or by a signpost, the judge said.
Responding to the judgement Nihalani rued that from now on, CBFC was meaningless. He said doors for films with obscene, vulgar content are open now and questions have been raised on the working of the censor board. He said:
It is undoubtedly a good judgement for the producers. I have been a producer too, so I am glad everyone is relieved today. But the CBFC has lost its meaning today. As the chairman of the CBFC, I have come to know that the board is not here to censor movies . I just want to point out that when the name of the board was changed from ‘censor’ to ‘certification’, the 1952 cinematograph Act that it follows, and its rule book were not changed.
We were just following those, and doing our job and was only implementing the act that was framed for CBFC to function with full honesty. I had put in place a proper system. We were doing what was expected of us — to ensure films are free of content that is unnecessarily abusive and defamatory. But from today, the producers are free to produce anything they want.
They will now have the liberty to have obscenity, vulgarity in their movies. It is an open world for them as anything and everything they make will be cleared with an A certificate.
The board has the option of appealing against the verdict in the Supreme Court.