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History deformation: Challenging time for filmmakers in India

Film 'Padmavati' facing hostility from different parts of India

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Padmavati in trouble
In recent times, many films have faced opposition due to raising any topic that affects any section of the society. Twitter @FilmPadmavati
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– Amulya Ganguly

November 21st, 2017:

At the root of the controversy over the release of the Hindi feature film “Padmavati” is, first, the saffron brotherhood’s interpretation of history with a pronounced anti-Muslim bias and, secondly, the Bharatiya Janata Party’s overt and covert attempts to whittle down institutional autonomy.

Even if the BJP’s seemingly political use of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) is a continuation of the practice of its predecessor which made the Supreme Court call the CBI a “caged parrot”, the party can be said to have broken new ground by letting vandals of the Hindu Right vent their anger against Padmavati and, thereby, undermining the authority of the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC).

In this case, too, there are precedents as when the Congress objected to the film, “Indu Sarkar,” because of its focus on Indira Gandhi. But the saffron offensive against Padmavati is making a greater impact because of the clout which the Sangh Parivar affiliates enjoy in view of their proximity to power.

It is obvious that if they are not checked, not only will the authority of the CBFC be diminished, but also the board will be wary in future of clearing films dealing with history or issues which are close to the Parivar’s heart. Politics will, therefore, virtually take over the board’s functioning.

What is more, the filmmakers themselves will be dissuaded from touching subjects which may be deemed sensitive and deal instead with safe, insipid topics. Such a state of affairs will be unfortunate at a time when Bollywood has been breaking away from the earlier productions with their song-and-dance routine and predictable storylines which were far removed from reality, except in a few exceptional cases which came to be known as the parallel cinema.

Not long ago, it was expected that the directors and producers will be able to breathe easily after the previous censor board chief, Pahlaj Nihalani, was unceremoniously removed so that he could no longer run amok with his scissors in accordance with his saffron whims, as in the case of reducing the duration of a kiss in a James Bond film or ordering 89 cuts in “Udta Punjab” or not clearing “Lipstick Under My Burkha” at all.

But any hope that the new board will be allowed to exercise its judgement in peace with the support of the Information and Broadcasting Ministry has been belied if only because the opponents of the idea of letting the artists pursue their craft unhindered are far too influential politically.

The decision about what the audience will be allowed to see is being taken not only by the self-appointed guardians of culture but also the ministry which has banned two films — “S Durga” and “Nude” — from an international festival in Goa apparently because the letter “S” in “S Durga” stands for “sexy”, which is too strong a word for bureaucratic ears, and “Nude” is out for obvious reasons.

While the rewriting of history books is proceeding apace with Rana Pratap winning the battle of Haldighati against Akbar on the pages of the textbooks printed in Rajasthan, the Hindutva storm-troopers are laying down the rules on how historical events are to be shown on the screen.

India has already seen the exiling of a reputed painter, M.F. Husain, who was hounded out of the country by saffron vigilantes who were displeased with his depiction of Hindu deities.

It will be a sad day if filmmakers, too, have to leave the country or shoot their films elsewhere, as in the case of Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children, which was shot in Sri Lanka.

The standard explanation for demanding cuts in the films is to ensure that the sentiments of the people are not hurt.

It was for this very same reason that Galileo had to disavow his thesis about the earth moving around the sun since such an assertion offended the feelings of the church and the laity in medieval Europe.

It took the church 350 years to apologise. There is unlikely to be anyone in the ruling dispensation or even in the opposition who will be courageous enough to say that the question of whether religious or cultural sensibilities are being hurt cannot be settled on the streets but should be left to the institutions to decide or, as a last resort, to the judiciary to determine with the assistance of scholars.

The saffron ire against “Padmavati” is apparently over the belief that the film will be unable to do justice to the heroic reputation of the queen of Mewar, a legendary beauty, who killed herself rather than be captured by the invading army of Alauddin Khalji.

Although no one, except the censors, has seen the film, the Hindu Right is patently unwilling to take the chance of an erroneous presentation. So the group has donned battle armour to save the fabled queen (real or fictional) 700 years after her death — this time from filmmakers — and is issuing blood-curdling threats against the director and the leading actress.

If accurately presented, the turbulent period of early 14th century Rajasthan can be the subject of a riveting drama. But whether cinema-goers will be able to see the film is still uncertain. (IANS)

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No issues with CBFC, my problem is with society: Ekta Kapoor

''There is no problem with CBFC, my problem is with society, which at some point speaks about the same issue in its own ways"

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Ekta Kapoor says that she is not against CBFC but retrograde thinking of the society. Bollywood Country
Ekta Kapoor says that she is not against CBFC but retrograde thinking of the society. Bollywood Country
  • Ekta Kapoor makes it clear that her strife is with society
  • She said that she has no problem with CBFC
  • She also pointed out how there are better issues to focus on

After fighting many battles with the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC),  Alankrita Shrivastav directorial venture “Lipstick Under My Burkha” was released.

During the film’s trailer launch, Ekta Kapoor, who distributed the film, said that she had no problem with the CBFC, but with the society.

Ekta Kapoor
Ekta Kapoor makes it clear her problem is the society, not CBFC. IANS

”There is no problem with CBFC, my problem is with society, which at some point speaks about the same issue in its own ways. If you talk to any girl, you will come to know about five to 10 such incidents happening with her in one day where, being a woman, she has to prove herself a little harder. She has to learn how to combat from a very young age,” Ekta Said.

Explaining about the middle finger shown in the poster of the film “Lipstick Under My Burkha”, Ekta said: “The middle finger is not for the CBFC but pointed towards the patriarchal society that does not let us come out, which compels us to suppress our voice. That is why this issue is not just CBFC’s, this issue is about ideology, it is about patriarchy.”

During the press conference, the panel consisted of Ekta Kapoor, Alankrita Srivastava, Konkana Sen Sharma, Ratna Pathak Shah, Aahana Kumra and Plabita Borthakur.

The film, produced by Prakash Jha, was stuck with the CBFC for six months as it revolves around four women and their sexual desires and freedom. But finally, the CBFC has passed the trailer of the film with ‘A’ certificate.

Ratna Pathak Shah, who was one of the senior most actors among the four women in the film, said the film should not be loaded with any label as it is difficult to live with and she did this film as she found it very interesting and funny.

“Let’s not load the film down with words such as ‘life-changing movement’ or ‘new wave’ etc., as these things, these labels can be very hard to live with.

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Ekta Kapoor has always been vocal about her thoughts on women empowerment.

“When I saw the film, I found it extremely interesting, extremely sensitive, funny film. I enjoyed watching it and I think even the audience will do,” said the Sarabhai vs Sarabhai actress.

She also addressed the issue of Goods and Services Tax (GST) by saying: “Not just lipstick, but sanitary pads should also not be taxed by the government. It’s a necessity for a woman’s hygiene.” IANS