Hollywood sex is kosher: Indian sentiments matter not

July 30, 2023
The Gita is the ultimate belief one can swear on to tell the truth. A criminal may still lie, but our judiciary and our films continue to repose faith in this holy book.

Courts in India make a criminal swear by the Bhagavad Gita before he deposes in a case, or at least, that is what I have seen in films. The Gita, if one understands rightly, is the ultimate belief one can swear on to tell the truth. A criminal may still lie, but our judiciary and our films continue to repose faith in this holy book.

Since our film folk swear by the Gita, why won’t our Central Board Of Film Certification (CBFC)? The CBFC has passed the Hollywood film ‘Oppenheimer’ with a scene showing the lead pair indulging in sex while the male actor is shown reading from the ‘Bhagavad Gita’!

No, not Vatsyayana’s ‘Kama Sutra’, unless the CBFC thought it is all the same!

I don’t know why the makers thought of doing this stunt, but, maybe, the CBFC did figure it out and thought might as well let the people of India know, to use the phrase of the news channel anchors!

The Indian censor board is known to be hard on Indian films, in most cases illogically and unnecessarily. But, the board forgets to apply the same yardstick when it comes to Hollywood films.

These films may be from Hollywood, but the audience is the same, those Indians who also watch Hindi movies. Now, even more people watch Hollywood films as they get an extensive release all over India and are dubbed in various local languages. The standards should be the same for both.

With Hollywood, especially with ‘Oppenheimer’, the CBFC has decided to prove itself even more lenient than Hollywood. In the USA, they don’t have a censoring body and the filmmakers practice self-censorship. The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) has given the film an ‘R’ rated because it has some sexuality, nudity and profane language.

The Indian censor board has rated it UA, which practically allows audiences across age groups to watch it. If the CBFC thinks this elaborate sex scene in ‘Oppenheimer’ is okay for all ages, the film would have avoided all the controversy. But, who in the board will explain the use of the ‘Bhagavad Gita’?

Does Prasoon Joshi, as the CBFC chief, watch the movies or even visit the office (I am not saying attend)? Well, the censor certificates have to be signed and if the chairman does not visit the office, they have to be brought to him at this suburban luxury hotel which is his adda.

Who actually runs the CBFC? The Regional Officer! If nothing, a film such as ‘Oppenheimer’ needed a look-see by the revising committee before it was granted a U/A certificate and the ‘Bhagavad Gita’ scene passed.

When it comes to ‘Adi Purush’, probably the feeling was that the film will narrate the story of the Ramayana and help enlighten generation next. Chairman Joshi, being a poet, should not have let such a telling of ‘Ramayana’ with funny-looking characters and pedestrian dialogues pass. That is, unless he was not aware of them.

CBFC appointments are always based on the policy of distributing rewards to those close to the ruling establishment, whatever the ruling party. There is no minimum qualification required. The knowledge of the film industry, public tastes and trends don’t matter. The chairman before Joshi was also one such person. He was close to the ‘margdarshaks’ of the ruling party. And he decided how long James Bond should kiss his heroines!

In the early 2000s, people like Anupam Kher and Arvind Trivedi (Ravan of Ramanand Sagar’s TV serial ‘Ramayana’), both BJP loyalists graced the chair. Earlier in the late 1990s, a man named B.P. Singhal was given the responsibility. What was his qualification? He was an ex-cop and brother of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad chief.

The media did not take kindly to this appointment and Singhal gave up within a year. No censor chief appointed from the film fraternity has lasted for long in the position.

Seeing that such a hullabaloo has been raised about the passing of ‘Adi Purush’ and now ‘Oppenheimer’, the CBFC is on an overdrive. ‘OMG2’ has been stalled. The board has found it ‘slightly’ controversial.

This Akshay Kumar-starrer is a sequel to ‘OMG: Oh My God’. Either something is controversial or not at all. One never knows when a slight controversy blows up into a huge one.

The other film that was subjected to extra scrutiny is ‘Rocky Aur Rani Kii Prem Kahaani’ starring Ranvir Singh and Alia Bhatt. Among the cuts that were imposed include a reference to the West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee and her pet phrase, ‘Khela Hobe!’.

Only if the Board had been as sensitive about religious issues as it was about political leaders!

–By Vinod Mirani

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