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Pahlaj Nihalani's issue with ‘lady-oriented’ films is why CBFC must be shut down

DailyBite
DailyBiteFeb 24, 2017 | 14:26

Pahlaj Nihalani's issue with ‘lady-oriented’ films is why CBFC must be shut down

Women – older women with thick but greying hair, Muslim women in a burkha but sipping tea and putting on make-up underneath the black veil, college-going woman eager to have sex, woman in her thirties with her no-nonsense and candid sexual desires – have exposed India’s Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) for what it has become.

Under the able guidance of Pahlaj Nihalani, the CBFC has decided that it would issue at periodic intervals, statements that are so cringe-worthy, so ludicrous and so dangerously stifling for any creative expression in the world of filmmaking, that we’d be reminded once again of what Nihalani has been assigned to do.

The CBFC’s refusal to certify the Prakash Jha-produced and Alankrita Srivastava-directed Lipstick Under My Burkha because it dares to portray female sexual desires is exactly why CBFC should just shut down. Let’s just quote the letter in to-to and, as Farhan Akhtar puts it, keep your barf bag ready.

“The story is lady oriented, their fantasy above life. There are contanious sexual scenes, abusive words, audio pornography and a bit sensitive touch about one particular section of society. Hence film refused under guidelines …”

Seriously?

You mean in English that’s as disgustingly incorrect as the above lines from the CBFC letter, that all those Salman Khan movies are not about (male) “fantasy above life”?

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You mean Bollywood is an industry that specialises in documentary filmmaking? You mean Ajay Devgn’s Shivaay, (yeah since it’s Mahashivratri, how could we not refer to the Hindu women’s love of the divine penis celebrated with such dedication in a country that refuses to talk about female sexual desires) is hardcore realism?

Lipstick... which boasts of a stellar starcast in Konkona Sensharma, Ratna Pathak Shah, among others, is a film by women, of women but for both men and women.

It’s in fact a brilliant interjection into the heavily male-dominated sexual discourse, where male sexual coming-of-age is almost always the storyline.

If women aren’t sexual and romantic props for a change, when women are the source and not the recipient of desire, when the order that patriarchy wants to impose is inverted, CBFC has a problem?

Pahlaj Nihalani, when not singing Modi panegyrics, and cavorting in patriotic glee to a terrible rendition of the enforced national anthem, is usually giving us one more reason why the CBFC should just pack up.

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Not only does it fail to appreciate movies that actually expand the horizon of filmmaking – such as Lipstick Under My Burkha, which has already wowed us with its intriguing and brilliantly captured trailer, the Board is equally ill-equipped to make sense of good storytelling, which should open up hitherto unchartered avenues.

It’s absolutely telling that CBFC finds little objectionable in movie after movie produced in an assembly line in Bollywood that portray women as little more than meat for male consumption. When it’s not kink-shaming our Bollywood actors, or editing out kisses from movies, it’s coming out with asinine reasons for films to be not “lady-oriented”.

Whatever does that mean? Does CBFC imply that women should not talk about sex, or have sexual fantasies, or not find an outlet to express their sexual desires after a certain age?

Does CBFC imply that it’s not Indian culture for women to be not objects, but the subjects of sexual fantasies, to be not gazed at all the time, but be the gazers themselves?

Does CBFC mean that “audio pornography”, which perhaps indicates sound-bites that signify female pleasure, and not the male idea of the pleasuring woman, is inappropriate because it’s the other way round?

How is it that CBFC actually finds ground to not certify a movie for being “lady oriented”? Only in countries that have embraced collective regression can this be even imagined.

While Alankrita Srivastava has branded CBFC’s decision as an “assault on women’s rights”, Prakash Jha, and indeed the film fraternity, has been livid.

As many have observed, this systematic suppression of female narratives, female points-of-view and the female desire in India’s culture industry is exactly what needs to be fought and resisted, and Lipstick Under My Burkha is exactly the kind of intervention that needs to be encouraged, not stifled.

It’s absolutely amazing that any creative expression, whether in movies, art, literature, or academics, that is remotely straying from the Hindu patriarchy of the homebound woman dutifully leading her life as her husband’s lifelong sex slave, when not discarded like junk somewhere in the middle, is actively stymied by various public organisations having anything to do with the current regime.

This organised suppression of creative endeavour, this crunching of imagination and imprisoning of freedom of expression has reached a malignant state already.

We need to oppose this and do it now. We need more of Lipstick... and less of the likes of Shivaay, which portrays women as objects of flesh trade looking for a male emancipator.

The sickening distrust that this moral brigade has in women’s own role in their empowerment is telling.

Last updated: February 26, 2017 | 12:18
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