Acclaimed ‘Haider’ director Vishal Bhardwaj has spoken out against India’s controversial film censor, comparing it to the Taliban.
The Central Board of Film Certification has come under intense attack in recent months particularly under the leadership of its newly-elected chairman Pahlaj Nihalani.
Bhardwaj said that the Board itself should be “censored and chopped”.
In an interview with the Indian wire service IANS, he said: “It’s really sad what is happening right now. The Censor Board is behaving like a Taliban. They should be censored and chopped. They censor our films, they should be chopped first. They should know their limits…films are an art form.
Nihalani, a film producer himself, was the target of widespread ridicule after a list of “cuss words” prepared by him and intended for state censor boards was leaked to media outlets last month.
The list included “Bastard”, “Son of a Bitch” and “Screw” and also instructed the boards to disallow any “glorification of bloodshed” and the use of “Bombay” instead of “Mumbai”.
Since then, the Board has banned the release of the international hit ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ and become increasingly draconian with its decrees, leading to criticism from filmmakers and actors, including ‘NH10’ star Anushka Sharma.
Last week, a group of prominent Bollywood personalities met with India’s Minister of Information and Broadcasting to raise their concerns.
Bhardwaj, who was also in attendance, said he hoped something positive would come out of the meeting.
“The Censor Board should be restricted by the government, and I hope that the Information and Broadcasting Ministry realises soon that film is a form of art. They are not only about ‘gaana-bajaana’ and ‘nautanki’. That (the) I&B ministry has to understand”, Bhardwaj said.
“The censor’s scissors should be snatched away and thrown into a valley”, he added.
The director behind such internationally acclaimed films as ‘Omkara’ and ‘Maqbool’ also said that films, much like any art form, merely reflected the realities of the society from which it stemmed.
A film is the mirror of the reality and not vice versa. A film doesn’t create reality, it just reflects reality”, the director said.
Responding to a question about the use of abusive language in films, Bhardwaj said: “The government should adopt a rule that people shouldn’t abuse on the road. Then we will feel that the government wants to change the character of the nation. If the government really wants to make a change, then they should consider abusing behind the camera as a crime too.
“The society should change, not films, because filmmakers only show what is happening in the society. If we make a film on the poet Kabir will people start speaking couplets on the road? If not, then how will they start abusing after watching films?
“We have a culture and society where people abuse on roads…we have a style…when two friends meet, even they abuse each other…So now, are we going to make an Afghanistan out of India?”
Bhardwaj’s views echo not only those of his fellow filmmakers but also, it appears, some members of the Censor board itself.
One member, Ashoke Pandit, this week slammed Nihalani for his “mindless tyranny” when it comes to rating films and accused him of turning the Board into a “laughing stock”.
Pandit pointed to ‘NH10’ as evidence of the confused functioning of the censor board under Nihalani’s leadership.
The film, originally blocked by censors, opened in cinemas on Friday after its makers were asked to make nine cuts.
“The cuts have been levied in spite of the film-maker agreeing to an adult certificate,” Pandit said.
He added that Nihalani had gone ahead with asking for the cuts despite objections from other panel members.
For his part, Pahlani has defended the Board’s actions, saying he was merely “safeguarding Indian culture”.