Phullu: The CBFC thinks menstrual hygiene is a subject that calls for an 'adult' rating
Last year, actor-turned-columnist Twinkle Khanna started a dialogue about menstruation and affordable sanitary pads when she chronicled the life of social entrepreneur Arunachalam Muruganantham in her book, The Legend of Lakshmi Prasad.
In an attempt to carry forward the much-needed discussion, Khanna announced that her maiden film production under her new banner, Mrs Funnybones Films, will be titled Padman, a biopic of Muruganantham. Her husband, Akshay Kumar, is playing the protagonist and is currently shooting for the film in Madhya Pradesh.
But in the midst of all these developments, an independent filmmaker Abhishek Saxena has already made a fictional film titled Phullu that aims to spread awareness about the same issue in the remotest parts of the country. However, much to his dismay, the Central Board of Film Certification has issued an 'A' (adult) certificate to the film days before its release on Friday, 16 June 2017.
The Quint quotes Saxena as saying, "Phullu has no profanity, no smoking, nothing that warrants adult certification. It’s just that people taking calls at the CBFC are not evolved and educated enough to see the importance of this film. They’ve grown up with the stigma around menstruation, have never discussed it in their homes, and think that it’s a forbidden ‘adult’ topic. They’ll never understand that our aim is to break this very taboo. (Pahlaj) Nihalani hasn’t watched the film. I know this because he wasn’t there at the screening. But we are not strong enough to fight this, not now."
Saxena also wondered if Akshay Kumar's Padman would be subject to the same standards by the CBFC, or if its leading man's clout would help it get a U/A certificate. The same report quotes Saxena as saying, "I’m sure that the CBFC will not give Akshay Kumar’s film Padman an ‘Adult’ rating. Because he’s Akshay Kumar and whatever he shows is good and worthy of being seen as a ‘public interest’ message. When Padman releases, I’m sure that the CBFC will pitch it as an ‘education’ film, even though our film is just as much about menstruation and the taboo around it, as theirs."
While the CBFC's decision to issue an 'A' certificate to Phullu merely because it talks about menstruation seems unfair, the comparison to Padman, at this time, seems unjustified.
The government may be supporting Kumar's next release, Toilet: Ek Prem Katha, because it complements their flagship campaign of Swachh Bharat Mission. One can't assume they would do the same for Padman — especially since they seem to have turned a deaf ear to the countless pleas opposing 'Lahu ka lagaan' or tax on sanitary napkins.
As long as there is no clarification from the CBFC, Saxena's concerns about the adult certification are valid. But perhaps there's some minor solace to be found in the fact that the board is sticking to its role of certifying films rather than censoring them.
Watch the trailer for Phullu here: