Let’s be honest – India doesn’t seem mature enough to handle dissent. In this country, disagreement is seen as an antagonistic attribute, in the collective consciousness. It’s quite schoolyard-ish, if you ask me – “if you don’t agree with me, I don’t like you.” Hence, Anurag Kashyap immediately had to become someone who was anti-government and was forcibly branded an AAP chamcha overnight. You don’t agree with my film? Cool. You think my film is offensive or harmful? Cool. How about doing your job and handing an A certificate over to me, rather than me having to drag my film to court over a couple of bhenchod-madarchods and a bruised Punjabi ego?
The Bombay High Court – possibly the coolest High Court in the country right now – did impose one cut on Udta Punjab, and after an extremely harrowing legal battle with the CBFC, the makers of the film were happy to concede. The shot was that of the rap singer urinating on the audience. Why exactly a shot of a man urinating is offensive in this country is an interesting question, since you’ll see men with their dicks out, having a pee, pretty much anywhere you go. There’s really nothing in the film that is offensive at all – unless you are the Punjab government or the state police, of course.
Nobody takes film certification seriously in this country anyway – the U, the A and the ambiguous U/A mean nothing. I watched Udta Punjab with a Gujarati family sitting right behind me, munching on Jain burgers and fries, mothers cradling infants and fathers rocking toddlers on their laps. And this was at a respectable multiplex in Mumbai, where you would expect rules to be implemented. One can only imagine what happens in single-screen theatres and lesser known theatre chains across the country. If the certification was properly applied, there would be a little less monitoring required, but then again, how does one take the CBFC seriously when they pass a film like Mastizaade with no cuts? Or MSG? Or Humshakals? How is it that they had no problem with Sonakshi Sinha chasing Ajay Devgn in Action Jackson for a glimpse of his lucky cock? The third installment of Masti (Great Grand Masti) is releasing soon, and they have no qualms about that one either.
Is it that age-old battle between escapism and realism, then? This schizophrenic behaviour makes the CBFC come across as petty, and hence no one takes them seriously – just like no one pays any attention to their certification either. Also, the certifying committee has two committees above it in hierarchy – a Revising Committee and the FCAT (Film Certification Appellate Tribunal) – which have more sensible people on the panel, and most of the time, they see sense and it is not necessary to take matters to court.
The other matter is why the certifying body needs to be a government institution. The US and the UK have independent film classification bodies, comprising producers and other members of the film industry. How is that not a viable option for us? Why have the producers of the country not gunned for that to happen yet? It does not make any sense to have government participation when government patronage of the arts has dried up. The point is, we don’t want a Mastizaade or a Humshakals censored either, because everyone should have the freedom to create whatever they want to. Film classification is not supposed to be a tool to curb cinematic freedom – it is a guideline of sorts for the audience to decide what they want to watch and, more importantly, what they can allow minors to watch.
Likewise, the Bombay High Court need not have played pacifier by standing by one cut in Udta Punjab, just to make sure the film industry knows who is in charge. How can a legal body decide what can go into a work of art? More importantly, why does a legal body have that power? The current government is making noises about a radical overhauling of the CBFC and the way it functions, but there’s always many a slip in these matters, and it’s incumbent on the film industry to become much more proactive (aggressive, even) in ensuring a change in the archaic system.