The Central Board of Film Certification has been vexed beyond limit in recent months. Despite its most strenuous efforts, Bollywood refuses to behave. The Hindi film industry keeps rolling out one dirty picture after another. In Ra.One, Shah Rukh Khan’s G.One clutches the nether regions of the eponymously named villain. Perhaps the unforgettable moment passed muster because the two Ones are robots rather than humans. In Desi Boyz, John Abraham and Akshay Kumar set up a male escort service after they get fired from their jobs. The title track shows the two hunks performing their best imitation of Chippendale employees. Then there is the real article, The Dirty Picture, which you didn’t even have to see trailers of.
Not that the Board hasn’t tried to stop the flow of carnal thoughts and images. It encourages adult-content films to accept adults-only certificates. The Board has started bleeping out offensive dialogue, especially in trailers created by dastardly producers and promo editors who want to seduce audiences into buying tickets for their ultimately forgettable films. It even closely scrutinizes movies that have been released purely for the purpose of home entertainment. Children can operate even rocket launchers these days, so who’s to tell if they start watching their dad’s DVD copy of Bridesmaids, a work so offensive that it has to be edited down?
However, some film-makers manage to get away. Ra.One had a Universal rating. David Dhawan, whose son Rohit is responsible for Desi Boyz, got a U/A certificate for Rascals, in which Ajay Devgn and Sanjay Dutt, as dirty old men, lech at and paw the voluptuous Kangna Ranaut. The idea of a hero making his “entry” into a plot is a big deal, which is why the Salman Khan starrer never opens with him but grandly presents him a few scenes later. Ranaut’s entry was in a silver-coloured bikini.
It’s not only the expression of sexual desire that the censor board wants to police. It’s okay to have Dutt’s eyeballs hanging down to the floor at the sight of Ranaut, but it’s simply not okay for a sign demanding a free Tibet to exist in a movie. Now a close examination of the meaning of Saadda Haq in a Rockstar song doesn’t yield any easy answers. Is Jordan, the film’s angsty hero, complaining about the violation of his personal freedom? Does he support the idea of Khalistan, since there are some Sikh gentlemen in blue raising their fists at the camera? Does he stand for the Kashmiri self-determination struggle, since there are a few Kashmiris mouthing the lyrics? The censors needn’t have bothered. Audiences were so confused about director Imtiaz Ali’s motives in Rockstar that he could have declared his support for “Free Ilich Ramírez Sánchez” and it wouldn’t have made a difference.
U/A: Abraham and Kumar in Desi Boyz.
The censor board can’t stop the proliferation of images downloaded from the Internet, which, thanks to technological advances, are now available even on your mobile handset. They can’t stop the desire for political freedom, with or without the support of Ali. They could, perhaps, be a bit consistent in the manner in which they rate films. Better still, they could play critic rather than moral policeman. What if the Board came up with a system that rated films on grounds of aesthetics rather than moral offensiveness? Instead of adults-only certificates, you could have such ratings as “Intelligent Adults Only”, “Strictly for Men Who Refuse to Grow Up” and “Political Dilettantes, This Way Please”.
Nandini Ramnath is the film critic of Time Out Mumbai (www.timeoutmumbai.net).
Write to Nandini at firstname.lastname@example.org