Filmmaker Vikram Bhatt on how censor cuts on Love Games left him disgusted
Morality, decency and what can cause an offence mean different things to different people.
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We stood outside the preview theatre, Mahesh Bhatt, Mukesh Bhatt and I, waiting for the Censor Board to see Love Games and the verdict to be announced. We had applied for an adult certificate, the film clearly had adult content and we were well aware of that.
The show was done and we were ushered in. The regional officer muttered something about the film that I did not get but it was meant to be complimentary. It really doesn't matter how many films you have made, when you present yourself to the Censor Board, you get an old feeling of being pulled up in front of the school principal, when you know you have done nothing wrong but there was always the chance that the principal might not be in a great mood.
We were informed that we were getting 18 cuts. When we learned what the cuts were, we stood like reindeers caught in the glare of headlights, frozen. We couldn't use the word "f**k" but we could use "f**king" because "f**k" is a verb and "f**king" is slang that doesn't mean "f**k".
I really missed my Wren and Martin that day! We had used the word "bitch" thrice in the film but we were being allowed to use it only once. Thrice was too much for the Indian audience. It would probably de-sanctify the fabric of society and leave us "uncultured".We are helpless against the vagaries of a scissor-happy Censor Board.
Suffice to say the list only went south in terms of ridiculousness. It was decided to take the film to the tribunal and it was there that we got the certificate with a minor sound mute. From 18 cuts to almost no cuts. Mukesh called me in Romania, where I was shooting for Raaz 4 to tell me we had a certificate.
I was very pleased but it did make me wonder how there could be so much of difference in the understanding of the tribunal and the examining committee. They were both following the laws set for film certification, then how can those laws be so different?
There was only one way to answer this - subjectivity. The laws were ambiguous to be subjective. It was then, with great enthusiasm, that I welcomed the formation of the Shyam Benegal Committee. Finally things were being done.
Months later, as I read of the committee's suggestions I heard myself say, "Balderdash!" I appreciate and thank the committee for its efforts and I have only the highest respects for Benegal but the point is not the suggestions of the committee, the point is that the subjectivity still remains.
A film certificate can be refused if it contravenes the provisions of section 5B (1) of the Cinematograph Act, 1952.
The provision is wide ranging. "A film shall not be certified for public exhibition if, in the opinion of the authority competent to grant the certificate, the film or any part of it is against the interests of (the sovereignty and intergrity of India) the security of the state, friendly relations with foriegn states, public order, decency or morality or involes defamation or contempt of court or is likely to incite the commission of any offence," the section reads.
Anyone who reads this provision and knows anything about legality and loopholes can well see that the provision has enough latitude to refuse certificate to almost any film. Give me a film and I will prove to you that it is in direct contravention of the above section. I am a high school dropout and I can see this, there are legal mavericks out there who can throw the book at you if they want.
Morality, decency and what can cause an offence mean different things to different people. Unless this ambiguity goes, we can keep wasting time on committees and little will happen. Till we work on the Cinematograph Act itself, we will be helpless against the vagaries of a scissor-happy Censor Board chairperson who has enough power handed to him by the Act to run the show as if in his own fiefdom and we will have no choice but to be his serfs.