Louis Malle’s Phantom India became controversial because some critics perceived it to be a lopsided depiction of the impoverished state of the country  (Louis Malle’s Phantom India became controversial because some critics perceived it to be a lopsided depiction of the impoverished state of the country )
Louis Malle’s Phantom India became controversial because some critics perceived it to be a lopsided depiction of the impoverished state of the country
(Louis Malle’s Phantom India became controversial because some critics perceived it to be a lopsided depiction of the impoverished state of the country )

6 banned documentaries: Why India’s Daughter is not alone

Here’s a look at five other documentaries that have in the past caused a furore in India

India’s Daughter by Leslee Udwin, now officially off YouTube, is only the latest in a raft of documentaries that have faced the Indian government’s ire. Some of them are now officially in the clear; others still face a question mark over their status. Here’s a look at five documentaries that have in the past caused a furore.

Sikkim (1971)

Made by: Satyajit Ray

What: A documentary on Sikkim, four years before it was annexed by India (in controversial circumstances) and became an Indian state. It is the only documentary made by Satyajit Ray. The film was financed by Sikkim’s last ruler Palden Thondup Namgyal and his American wife Hope Cooke, who wanted it to convey their concern that Sikkim’s sovereignty was under threat, and also to woo tourists.

Current Status: The ban was lifted in 2010 but the two existing copies of the film are in the US and with the British Film Institute. Some clips of the film are available to see on YouTube.

Phantom India (1969)

Made by: Louis Malle

What: A seven-part mini series made for television by the renowned French filmmaker who pioneered New Wave cinema. Malle made the film during a trip to India and captured footage of yesteryear Madras and Calcutta. The narrative also included the state of poverty, tribes in the Nilgiris and the caste system. The series became controversial became some critics perceived it to be a lopsided depiction of the impoverished state of the country and other negative aspects. It ballooned into a diplomatic incident after the Indian government asked the BBC to stop broadcasting it. When the BBC refused, the British broadcaster was asked to shut its New Delhi bureau, which it had to briefly.

Current Status: The official status on the screening of the series in India is not known although it is available for viewing online.

Inshallah, Football (2010)

Made by: Asvin Kumar

What: A documentary on a young Kashmiri footballer named Basharat Bashir Baba who wanted to play in Brazil but had to wait two years to get a passport because his father was a former militant. Even though the censor board awarded an A certificate to it, it restrained the documentary’s screening just before its scheduled release. The decision was taken because the film also dealt with the general life of the valley under the army’s control. Ironically, the film won for Kumar the national award for Best Film on Social Issues. He went on to make another film dealing with the same Indian state, Inshallah, Kashmir, and deliberately released it online to bypass the censor board.

Current status: Kumar has screened the film for restricted viewing by select audiences and released a password-protected print online.

No Fire Zone (2013)

Made by: Callum MacRae

What: In February 2014, the Indian censor board banned the investigative documentary, No Fire Zone: The Killing Fields of Sri Lanka, on grounds that the film may strain friendly relations with the island nation. Directed by award-winning film-maker and Nobel Peace Prize nominee Callum Macrae, the film looks at the final weeks of the civil war between the Sri Lankan armed forces and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in 2009. The war ended in May 2009 with defeat for the LTTE at the hands of government forces, which were accused of widespread human rights violations.

Current status: The 96-minute film was made available for viewing on the Internet in both English and Hindi.

The Final Solution (2003)

Made by: Rakesh Sharma

What: A documentary that chronicles the 2002 Gujarat riots. The three-and-a-half-hour long documentary was banned in India in July 2004 after the Censor Board ruled that it “promotes communal disharmony among Hindu and Muslim groups and present the picture of Gujarat riots in a way that it may arouse communal feelings and clashes among Hindu and Muslim groups." The film was denied a censor certificate.

Current status: In October 2004, the film was cleared by the Censor Board and went on to win the Special Jury Award at the National Film Awards in 2007.

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