Mumbai: India’s censor board has refused to certify a film it describes as “lady-oriented”, sparking a furious response from the director, in the latest case to highlight fears over creative freedom in the country.
In a letter, the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) told the makers of “Lipstick Under My Burkha” that it would not clear the Hindi film for general release.
“The story is lady oriented, their fantasy above (sic) life. There are contanious (sic) sexual scenes, abusive words, audio pornography and a bit sensitive touch about one particular section of society, hence film refused under guidelines (sic)...” it read.
The letter was sent last month and came to light this week after Bollywood actor Farhan Akhtar tweeted about it. A copy of the letter was seen by AFP on Friday.
“Lipstick Under My Burkha” is directed by Alankrita Shrivastava and tells the secret lives of four women — including a college student who wears a burka, and a 55-year-old who rediscovers a sex life after the death of her husband.
It won an award at the Tokyo International Film Festival last year and also aired at the MAMI Mumbai Film Festival in October.
Shrivastava described the CBFC’s ruling as an “assault on women’s rights”.
“For too long the popular narrative has perpetuated patriarchy by objectifying women or minimising their role in a narrative,” she said in a statement carried by the Press Trust of India news agency on Thursday.
“So a film like ‘Lipstick Under My Burkha’ that challenges that dominant narrative is being attacked because it presents a female point of view. Do women not have the right of freedom of expression?,” Shrivastava added.
The filmmakers can approach the CBFC’s appeal panel and Shrivastava said she would fight the ruling.
Social media users took to Twitter to mock the film board’s ruling.
One, Heena Khandelwal, told the CBFC to “grow up” while Neeraj Ghaywan, a film director, wrote: “Privileged men have an issue with sexually liberated women. ‘Cannot be issued’ is a ban. Let’s call it that.”
India’s censors have a long history of barring movies and cutting scenes, including those deemed too racy or capable of causing religious offence, and filmmakers accuse them of intolerance.
In 2015 the CBFC blocked the release of a toned-down version of “Fifty Shades of Grey” and deemed two James Bond kissing scenes unsuitable for an Indian audience.