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The scissors have just got double edged!


Is censorship more an issue of who has made the film rather than what's the film? Does subject or the treatment decide the sharpness of Censor's scissors? The certification of the two recent films, "Kalyug" and "Neal n Nikki" makes a statement in this regard.

A ticket of "Kalyug" at a city multiplex. While the Censor Board has passed the ?lm with an A-certi?cate the ticket has U/A printed on it.

The recent "Neal `N' Nikki" versus "Kalyug" controversy over censor certification has again put a question mark over the efficacy and the very process of classification of films in the country. Is it the subject or the treatment, what will decide whether the film is meant for a universal or adult certificate? The debate started when Mahesh Bhatt's "Kalyug" that deals with the issue of pornography in a civilised manner was awarded an adult certificate by the Censor Board of Film Certification while Yash Raj banner's "Neal `N' Nikki", which in the garb of a young love story set in Canada presented sleaze to the youngsters, walked away with U/A certificate. The film has got more than a dozen smooches, the heroine christens her assets and every time she hops the camera captures her under garments. Even the basic premise the hero wants to try 21 girls before getting married is as far from the Indian values as one can get. That it comes from the Yash Raj banner, which once made mustard fields staple in Hindi cinema and dealt with the issue of a young girl falling for an old man with great maturity in "Lamhe", is all the more disappointing. The excuse nice is out, naughty is in.

Double standards

Bhatt calls it double standards of the Board and some biggies in the film industry. "I asked for an adult certificate myself for I didn't want the children to see the use of kids in sex trade but we didn't use the subject for titillation. And the film was passed without cuts. I have no problem with the subject of the other film either but when in the name of fun and frolic you dish out a film high on sexual overtones and bad language, the society is bound to have a problem." He adds, "It is not that I haven't played to the gallery. I call myself the artist of the gutter but my problem is with the hypocrisy."

On the charges of double standards, Sharmila Tagore, Chairperson, Censor Board of Film Certification says, "We are an organisation and I can't respond to such random charges that any individual makes."

WHAT IS OUTRAGEOUS? A scene from "Neal `N' Nikki".

Mahesh says of late he has stopped defending titillation in the name of art and aesthetics and that might be the reason for being singled out. "For years art house cinema has got away with sexual imagery in the name of art and aesthetics and wholesome entertainers have played to the gallery in the garb of some social message. I always ask whose art, whose aesthetics, whose taste?" And this is not something new. Raj Kapoor successfully put nudity in the garb of social message. Subhash Ghai got away with "Choli Ke Peeche Kya Hai" in the name of folk. Here, the character played by Kajol could dance in the rain in a micro mini in front of her mother in "Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge" - remember the film was set in a very traditional household - but Bipasha Basu playing a girl with no morals in "Jism" can't come out of water in a revealing outfit without rubbing the Censor Board the wrong way.

Defending his product, Arjun Sablok, director of "Neal `N' Nikki" has reportedly said, "The question of morality does not come into the play because the film is all about fun and frolic. And anywhere you go in modern Indian, the youngsters are taking care of their body and rather than being averse to exposing it, they revel in showing it off. You only need to go to health clubs and gyms and find that out." Riding on the corporate support, the attempt seems to be internalising of alien values through cinema. For if these values are so India why "Salaam Namaste" and "Neal `N' Nikki" have to be set in Australia and Canada. Why not the same old Punjab or even South Mumbai for that matter?

Coming to the language if the heroine shouts from the roof top that she is not a virgin - as Tanisha does in "Neal `N' Nikki" - is passable but the same dialogues would face Censor's scissors if put in Hindi. Remember Shekhar Kapur's "Bandit Queen". The film was based on a real life story and go to any village in the cow belt people's language is indeed interspersed with the foulest of words. Here, Mahesh calls it mental slavery. "Again it's the elitist way to define taste. Even a prostitute has some integrity when she goes about her business." Arjun points out, "My film is set in post-liberalisation era. My characters speak the language of educated, urban Indians."

Does it work?

At another level, does certification really work at the ground level and can make or break a film? Not quite. Both "Kalyug" and "Neal `N' Nikki" have failed at the box office with the former in fact doing better. "It does affect in metros where the cinema owners are bound to stop under age audience otherwise their license would be revoked," says Mahesh. Gone are the days when a board with just a huge letter A was put at the entrance to deter the audience. Today at Wave Noida, one of the most happening and so called elitist centres in the country, "Kalyug" tickets are being openly sold with U/A printed on them. Mahesh says he has no idea. Admits Ponty Chadha, the owner, "It is a mistake made by the staff and would be corrected." But in the same vain he says these days people don't mind taking their kids to adult films. Well, Sharmila might want to react to this.

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