Amartya Sen docu can't have 'cow' or 'Gujarat': How CBFC has gone from bizarre to ridiculous

Sandipan Sharma

Jul,13 2017 15:15:34 IST

JK Rowling should write a new lexicon for sensitive Indians and their custodians in the Censor Board currently spooked by a documentary on Amartya Sen.

This new word list, inspired obviously by the fear of the Dark Lord, should have a simple solution for words that can't be used out of fear, names that can't be named, places that can't be mentioned.

In this Rowling-esque glossary, every unmentionable can be You-Know-Who or He-Who-Should-Not-Be-Named, and every place that can't be talked about could be You-Know-Where.

Amartya Sen. Image: Reuters

Amartya Sen. Image: Reuters

How easy that would make the task of filmmakers who have to talk about unmentionables like Gujarat, Hindutva, cow, Hindu India, only to be told by the Censor Board to bleep out these words.

So, this is how a conversation in a film/documentary would go:

"There were once riots you-know-where while You-Know-Who was the you-know-what of that place."

Or: "There have been several incidents of lynching by vigilantes of you-know-which community over suspicions of eating the meat of a-four-legged-mother-that-can't-be-named." (On second thoughts, change meat to that-which-can't-be-eaten-in-Goa-but-not-in-Delhi).

You can bet Pahalaj Nihalani (He-who-is-his-master's-voice) and his team would never again ask for a cut, suggest changes in dialogue, or ask the filmmaker to bleep out words. And all cinema would automatically become sanskari.

Also read: Amartya Sen documentary makers asked to cut 'cow', 'Gujarat', 'Hindu India' from film by CBFC

The Censor Board's directive to Suman Ghosh, maker of the hour-long documentary on the Nobel-laureate, to excise innocuous words and phrases is indeed a reminder that it is now content with crawling when asked to bend. Its members are now gripped by a fear psychosis that makes them quiver in fear over words that have been part of the daily intercourse (oops! did that make Nihalani jump again) for ages.

Otherwise, which right minded person with a spine would have found the phrase "Hindutva view of India" a threat to "communal harmony"? Or comically argued that mentioning Gujarat in the documentary would "jeopardise the security of that state?"

But, this is what India's board for film certification has actually come to. It has turned into a quivering-quaking band of sycophants ready to go to any extent to please their masters, second-third-fourth guess what words may offend those-who-can't-be-named.

This sudden bout of sanskars, political-correctness in a team headed by a man who once made films laced with double-entendres and salacious songs (sample Nihalani's films like Aankhen and Andaaz) is not just a symbol of hypocrisy but also a blot on a country that has thrived on arguments, debates and has had a culture of shastrarth — philosophical and theological contests among scholars.

Muzzling the voice of an eminent economist revered across the world on hilarious grounds is plain shameful, an embarrassing exhibition of moral cowardice and intellectual penury.

The funnier part is that he-who-is-his-master's-voice and his chorus just don't learn from their previous comic capers. In the past, the CBFC has been laughed at for objecting to words like intercourse, shortening the length of a kiss in James Bond's Skyfall and getting rapped by the courts for suggesting dozens of cuts, including the complete omission of the word Punjab from the title, in Udta Punjab.

But, instead of learning from its mistakes, the Board has just been going from bizarre to ridiculous. Its diktats have been sounding more and more unreasonable and laughable.

When men without brains, morals and spines sit in positions of power, enjoy the power to censor, they end up turning art and literature into a reflection of their personalities, and, as a logical corollary, try to shape societies in their own mould. Nihalani and his team are trying to do just that.

Patrons of art have just options: Resist He-who-is-master's-voice. Or, watch Indian cinema turn into a cinematic tribute to Rowling's image of a world where nothing can be named because of the fear of You-Know-Who.


Updated Date: Jul 13, 2017 15:16 PM