A scientific study has concluded that 98% of India’s economy is reliant on important people making stupid statements (the rest is fuelled by Chyawanprash). That can be the only explanation as to why, day after day, the news reads like the Who’s Who Of Idiocracy. The latest entrant to the club is the new chief of the Censor Board, Mr. Rakesh Kumar, who declared that he would eliminate violence and vulgarity in films by washing film reels with Alok Nath’s DNA.
Ok, so he didn’t use those exact words, but that was pretty much the impression he gave off in his first interview, wherein he talked about the need to show erring filmmakers their place, which is somewhere in the 18th century. But before you get too critical, please understand that as a former Indian Railways employee, Mr. Kumar has the necessary knowledge to make decisions for all of us. This was evident when he used his five-year-old daughter as a focus group, citing her opinion of Shudh Desi Romance (Tagline: Watch Parineeti Play A Sassy North Indian Girl For The 658th Time) as having “too much love”. While this review is more insightful than anything produced by, say, Taran Adarsh, it’s best to not lend too much weight to the opinion of tiny humans who see crayons as a valid food group.
Secondly, Shudh Desi Romance is rated U/A, which means that it is suitable for kids aged 12 and above, so a five-year-old shouldn’t have been watching it in the first place. It’s like taking a kid to a bar and then complaining about the lack of Happy Meals. I’m sorry, but you cannot enforce public policy based on the opinion of your child. What are you – the Congress party?
Mr. Kumar also derided films like Grand Masti, as any sane human being should. Not because Grand Masti is filthy, but because it’s wildly unoriginal and has been known to cause AIDS. But by going down the moral police route, Mr. Kumar has done something that takes real skill – he has made me defend an Aftab Shivdasani film. Kumar also thought that Gangs of Wasseypur had terrible language, or as the residents of Wasseypur call it, language. (Apparently the cuss words in Wasseypur were inspired by Anurag Kashyap’s reaction to the censors screwing over Paanch.)
A lot of the concern comes from how films might affect kids. This argument is as tiresome now as it was when I first heard it as a kid. This was in the 90s, when a controversy had erupted around the song ‘Sexy Sexy Sexy Mujhe Log Bolein’, starring The Eyebrows Formerly Known As Karishma Kapoor. The word ‘sexy’ was eventually replaced by ‘baby’, which made things confusing for Govinda when he sang, ‘Meri pant bhi baby, meri shirt bhi baby’. Then there was Khalnayak, which put forth the question “Choli ke peechhe kya hai?” to which Sanjay Dutt replied, “Bandook”. Also in the fray was the UP-flavoured Sarkai Leyo Khatiya, Jaada Lage – the definitive work on thermodynamics. That song is a nursery rhyme compared to recent Bhojpuri hits like ‘Danda Daal Ke Piye Madam Tohaar Mango Frooti’. (Don’t ask. I have a lot of free time.)
It’s amusing to think that there was a body of government officials trying to save us from the scourge of pelvic thrusts in theatres, especially since nobody was monitoring TV. In the early days of cable, English movie channels regularly played A-rated movies during the day. Kids my age knew that if they switched on the TV and waited long enough, they’d be rewarded with the sound of a parent’s approaching footsteps and would have to hurriedly change the channel. My point is that despite all this, we turned out just fine (except for this horrible habit of espousing creative freedom).
I’m not saying the censors have it all wrong, but India is a country where gratuitous rape scenes were the norm for the longest time, and consensual sex scenes were censored. Also, it is perfectly okay to not like a movie. You don’t have to like everything you buy a ticket to, be it a movie, a play, a comedy show or the midget bowling alley. You have the right to come out and tell people what you thought of it. What’s worrying is when you use your personal opinion to stop others from forming their own. Seriously, go away. You’re not my real Babuji.
(Note: This is my HT column dated 19th Jan 2014.)