“If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led like sheep to slaughter”- George Washington
Half of my write up ends with the above quote that unfolds the plot splendidly. And to those educated section who thinks ‘free speech’ is a notch motion to discuss upon, than they have no other option rather than to be slaughtered off.
Creative liberty is one such brimming fundamental of free speech in a democratic fabric, an approach to interpret a society. Well, ‘democratic fabric’ seems vague in India if we see the dimension of creative liberty in the avenue of cinema.
The conflict between globally acclaimed broad-minded filmmakers and the strict (conservative, to be precise) Central Board of Film Certification (certification or censorship?) has been a boiling affair since ages. The potentiality for brave filmmakers has often met the displeasure of Indian Censor Board disguised as Certification Board in their attempts to expand the boundaries of Indian Cinema. And yes, censorship disguised as certification. Let’s clarify the difference between the two; certification means the action of providing someone or something with an official document attesting to a status or level of achievement while censorship refers to the suppression or prohibition of any parts of books, films and news which are considered obscene or provocative. So, the very job of CBFC is to certify the film and define age limit. Thus, it would not be wrong for us to conclude that CBFC follows censorship in the name of certification when they cut rills with their ‘scissors’ instead of issuing ‘papers’.[Definitions: Wiki]
Peculiarly, it is often seen that CBFC has intervened in the films which are unconventional in its approach and that stray away from mainstream ‘masala’ films. Most of these films (not generalising) attempts in mirroring ground dilemmas within society; whether they set about issues such as sexuality, drug abuse or cultural taboos. Moreover, CBFC doesn’t get satisfied scissoring scenes from films; it has even banned certain films due to the ‘presumptive anti–Indian culture’ content. Cults like ‘The Bandit Queen’ (1994) and ‘The Fire’ (1996) were banned due to the sexual content and for realistic portrayal of a lesbian relation. Ironically, those films got involved in conflict that have garnered success and earned laurels for Indian Cinema at global platforms; Anurag Kashyap’s Black Friday(2004) and Shekhar Kapur’s Bandit Queen being the perfect examples.
While citing the examples from 90s, we got to accept the fact that while society have evolved in these years, it is surprising that films today are still facing (even more) the same conflict against the conservatism of CBFC, be it with iconic actor Kamal Haasan’s 2013 release ‘Vishwaroopam’ or already a cult yet to be released ‘Lipstick Under My Burkha’.
What’s more fascinating is that, a club of few people in that board decides what to see and hear by the millions of adult population in India. Does our so-called ‘democratic fabric’ guaranteeing liberty to citizens consider ‘that club’ to be more matured than rest of the millions adult population? Funnily , while Censor Board follows the ‘grandma-attitude’ of constraining us to cuss words and unconventional approach in films reflecting society, it seems they tend to forget the attitude while passing films constituting item songs objectifying women and with ‘Lipstick Under My Burkha’ controversy on air, not a second thought in saying-“Feminism makes Censor Board uncomfortable.”
Amidst these conservatism approach of promoting stereotypes, brave filmmakers have made their voice heard overpowering constraints of CBFC and people from various walks of life have joined the march along with them; people uniting with the sense of belongingness of ‘free speech’ and with the very ideology of anti-conservatism and it is a soul duty of millennials to unite with it. Also, while ‘they’ have ‘scissors’ to cut the ‘rills’, we must not forget the fact that creativity is a rock; since ideas are always hard to break and would like to supplement this fact by conveying the colloquy from ‘V for Vendetta’-“Beneath this mask there is more than just a flesh. Beneath this mask there is an idea, and ideas are bulletproof.”
Bottom line, rock always wins against scissor in the game of rock-paper-scissor-cut.
Written By- Abhinav Shankar