Less than two weeks after Central Board Of Film Certification (CBFC) denied a certificate to Alankrita Shrivastava's "Lipstick Under My Burkha" for being "lady oriented" and "abusive," the censor board is in news once again for refusing certification to Malayalam film "Ka Bodyscapes" for "glorifying the subject of gay and homosexual relationship."
The film's director Jayan Cherian took to his Facebook saying, "It is official, Mr. Pahlaj Nihalani (CBFC Chairperson) put the final nail in my coffin." The director shared the letter, which the board has sent him and it included this passage:
"The film is explicit of scene offending Hindu sensibilities depicting vulgarity and obscenity through the movie. The religion of 'Hindu' is portrayed in a derogatory manner especially Lord Hanuman (shown in a poor light as gay) which may cause law and order problem in the society. The film contains posters depicting homosexuality throughout the movie and derogatory remarks against women. Abusive language is used in most of the places and also a female Muslim character is shown masturbating. The film has references to Hindu organisations indirectly which is unwarranted."
Over the years, the portrayal of politics, religion, nudity and homosexuality has been the bone of contention for CBFC and hundreds of films were either banned or imposed with plenty of cuts before they release in theatres. While it's true that the CBFC was formed, originally, to protect the cultural integrity of the nation, there's been a growing demand from the film industry and audiences alike to be more liberal when it comes to film certification.
However, no film, which has been too critical of the establishment or shook the cultural norms of its day has got a CBFC certificate without having to put up a strong fight. Some of them have become cult hits, while others gave rare insights into the mind of those who are marginalised and underprivileged. Here's a list of five such controversial films, which every Indian must watch.
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Ashvin Kumar's 2010 documentary about a young Kashmiri footballer, who had to wait for two years for a passport that would allow him to travel to and play football in Brazil -- just because his father was an ex-militant -- was banned by the censor board just before its release even though it was given an 'A' certificate initially. The film's portrayal of the harsh reality of Kashmir, militancy and army atrocities were said to be the reason behind why it was banned. The censor officials also thought that it showed the government in a bad light. Surprisingly, the film went on to win the National award for Best Film on Social Issues.
Anurag Kashyap's Black Friday, which was inspired from Hussain Zaidi's book 'Black Friday' about the 1993 Bombay bombings, was banned for three years. The censor board deemed the content to be too controversial to release in India considering that the final verdict of the 1993 Bombay blasts case hadn't come out until September 2006. Finally, Black Friday was allowed to release in early 2007 and it became a cult hit, propelling Anurag Kashyap's career into the stratosphere. Extensively researched and supremely well directed by Kashyap, Black Friday doesn't beat around the bush and calls a spade a spade. It is, without a doubt, one of the best films made on the 1993 Bombay blasts incident.
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One of the earliest films to focus on the plight of Muslims post-independence, Garam Hawa inspired a new wave of parallel cinema upon its release in 1973. The film was banned for nearly eight months since the censor board believed that it would lead to communal unrest. At one point of time, Bal Thackeray, the then head of Shiv Sena, who alleged that the film is 'pro-muslim' and 'anti-India' is said to have threatened to burn down Regal Cinema in Mumbai if Garam Hawa was premiered there. However, despite all these initial setbacks, director MS Sathyu ran from pillar to post to screen the film to every government official, politicians and journalists till the film was allowed to release. Upon its release, the film went on to win multiple awards including the National Award for Best Feature Film on National Integration, and it was India's official entry to the Oscars.
However, despite all these initial setbacks, director MS Sathyu ran from pillar to post to screen the film to every government official, politicians and journalists till the film was allowed to release. Upon its release, the film went on to win multiple awards including the National Award for Best Feature Film on National Integration, and it was India's official entry to the Oscars.
The life of Phoolan Devi was brought alive in this 1994 biographical film by Shekhar Kapur. A controversial film back in the 90s, Bandit Queen was initially banned for its explicit sexual content, nudity and abusive language. However, it finally released in theatres all over the country in 1994. Not only did it make the lead actress Seema Biswas a household name, but the story of Phoolan Devi itself turned into a folklore, which would be passed on from one generation to another. The next time you think about Chambal valley, you know that you can't stop thinking about Phoolan Devi -- a rape survivor, a dacoit, politician who ultimately met a tragic death in 2001.
The 2002 Gujarat riots has been the subject of several films and books over the years, and every single work has rattled the establishment in one way or another. While filmmakers, journalists and writers allege that the then state government, led by Narendra Modi, didn't do enough to stop the riots that killed more than 1000 people, several members of BJP and their associates maintain that the government did everything it could to stop the violence.
Rahul Dholakia's Parzania was one such film, which took a critical look at the aftermath of the riots and how it led to a deep rift between members of two religion. Based on a true story of a 10-year-old Parsi boy, Azhar Mody (his name was changed to Parzaan Pithawala in the film), who disappeared after the February 28, 2002, Gulbarg Society massacre, the film traces the journey of the boy's family to find him. Given the sensitive nature of the film, it was banned in Gujarat and several theatre owners refused to screen the film. Several politicians opposed it before its wide release in India, but the film did find its audience eventually. It's one of the most hard-hitting films made on the issue of communal riots and Naseeruddin Shah, Sarika's performances make this film even more unforgettable.
Although Inam was passed by the censor board, Santosh Sivan's movie ran into a huge controversy just after its release when several fringe groups protested against the film in Tamil Nadu. Santosh Sivan and the producers eventually decided to pull the film out of the theatres, but by then, Inam had made its mark as one of the best films made on the civil war in Sri Lanka.
The film follows the lives of a group of teenagers in an orphanage amidst the civil war in Sri Lanka, and it was hailed for its neutral perspective on the war. Although Santosh Sivan clarified that his film is about "human aspirations and emotions shattered by the war," it wasn't enough to convince the fringe groups who were upset that Santosh Sivan wasn't more sympathetic towards the fate of the Sri Lankan Tamils.