The Examining Committee of the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) has demanded that producer-director Dakxin Bajrange cut the phrase ‘mann ki baat’ from a dialogue in his upcoming film Sameer on the 2008 Ahmedabad blasts, to become eligible for certification. The CBFC chairman Pahlaj Nihalani told the filmmaker that this could be seen as a reference to the Prime Minister’s radio talk show.
In a letter dated March 16, which The Hindu has accessed, the CBFC has also demanded that the BJP flag be removed in the background from one of the scenes, curse words be cut out, and post-blast scenes showing dead persons with nails and glass pieces on their face/skin be halved. After compliance, the censor board has agreed to issue an ‘A’ certificate for the film.
Speaking to The Hindu , Mr. Bajrange said that he had met Mr. Nihalani in person on March 22, to explain the context in which the dialogues and the scenes appeared, so that they could see reason as to why it didn’t need censoring.
“But that has not helped. I am now petitioning the revising committee of the CBFC to reconsider some of the recommended cuts. I was denied the oral hearing mandated by law by the Examining Committee,” he said, adding further, “I wonder how the mere mention of the phrase Mann ki baat by the villain could defame somebody…”
The original dialogue where the phrase appears goes like this: “ Ek mann ki baat kahoon? Tum character accha bana lete ho!” Mr. Bajrange stressed there was nothing defamatory or insinuating about this line. Also, the curse words in the movie appear when the police officer is shown interrogating a suspected terrorist.
“Will a police talk to a criminal politely? It is common sense that he will use abusive words,” the director said. “How can I show a realistic scene if everything is cut out? I have seen torture scenes in other movies like Haider and Sarabjit which were more violent than what I’ve shown but these were given a U/A certificate,” he said.
Mr. Bajrange also referred to the Supreme Court judgment pertaining to the film Bandit Queen in which many violent scenes were justified, for adult viewing, since they were appropriate to the context of the film. The director has, however, agreed to mute curse words referring to women.
‘Stay out of trouble’
Film studies professor K. Hariharan, who teaches at Ashoka University in Delhi, said that the Cinematograph Act of 1952, empowers the CBFC to object to any phrase that is likely to bring disrepute to a celebrity or a politician.
“To stay out of trouble, the filmmaker could rephrase it as “dil ki baat”,” he suggested.
“If the CBFC objects, the director can take it to the tribunal and once the matter goes to the court, a favourable judgment is likely but that also delays the film’s release,” Mr. Hariharan observed, adding, “There are worse forces than the CBFC that are out on the street. Imagine what if some goons burnt down the theatre because of the blast references…”
The CBFC has courted controversy recently over asking the ‘Hanuman chalisa’ to be muted in Phillauri and denying certification to Lipstick under my Burkha for being “lady-oriented”.