If you’re a true movie-buff, who actually cares for cinema and not just the razzle-dazzle of its glamor and stars, then you’ll understand only too well the importance for all kinds of films to reach the audience. Niche films, those with offbeat topics, and especially those with controversial subjects and the ones that hold a mirror to society deserve to be accommodated in theaters along with the blockbusters and multi-starrers, which release every Friday.
However, the moment a film comes along highlighting societal issues, religious matters, real-life controversies, or topics considered taboo in Indian culture; you can almost sense the Indian Censor Board getting ready with their long shears to snip the film mercilessly or ban it altogether, if the makers don’t agree to their outlandish demands. From showing a catholic priest to be human to the plight of widows to our country’s own culture – there’s no telling what can piss our censor board off.
Here are ten banned Indian films that are absolutely essential viewing for any cinephile.
Anurag Kashyap’s battles with the censors began from his debut feature itself and continue to this day. His first film, Paanch, which centered on a rock band that gets involved in kidnapping and murder was replete with excessive violence, swear words, and drug abuse – themes that sat well with the plot but incurred the censor babus’ wrath. To this day Paanch hasn’t had a run in cinema halls.
If Kashyap had thought that his second film would have better luck with the censors, then he was again in for a rude shock. All that the film did was retell facts about one of Mumbai’s ghastliest and most-tragic periods. All that the censors felt was that the film was too dark for the audience. A film based on terrorist attacks being considered too dark – we bet that even Kashyap wouldn’t have been able to control a guffaw upon hearing that.
Deepa Mehta is another Director who has no love lost with the Indian censors. Her film, Fire, which focused on a sensitive lesbian relationship between two sister-in-laws in a Hindu family, won rave reviews the world over but was duly shunned back home. Forget being banned, Mehta and her lead actors, Shaban Azmi and Nandita Das, even received death threats from right-wing Hindu groups.
Yet another Deepa Mehta film that made the censors and Hindu groups see shades of red, crimson and purple. It highlighted the plight of windows in pre-independence India – something that afflicts parts of Indian society to this day – but all that a majority of our junta saw was that Mehta is attacking their religion and sacred beliefs.
Shekhar Kapur brilliantly translated the real-life story of one of India’s most-notorious dacoits onto celluloid but what he didn’t account for was the censors’ aversion to accepting that Phoolan Devi may have, just may have, actually abused filthily and humped aggressively in her actual life. Result: a ban due to the film’s explicit nudity, language, and sexuality.
Kama Sutra: A Tale of Love
This one takes the cake and the entire bakery along with it. The censors and a large portion of the public, too, had a problem with a film that did nothing other than visually represent an intrinsic part of Indian culture – a part that’s well-documented, sculpted on temple walls, and widely followed by millions across the world. Though initially passed after a massive ruckus and some serious chopping, it was later taken down because of its capacity to corrupt our youth and our virtuous culture. Oh, the irony…!
Though the film was released in the rest of the country, the Gujarat government wasn’t prepared to be reminded of the scars, wounds, and ubiquitous tragedy they were responsible for during one of the most-shameful chapters in India’s volatile communal history. Told poignantly through the eyes of one family’s loss, the film hit too close to home and was too much of a disconcerting reminder for powers that be to have embraced it with open arms.
This one got the catholic community all uneasy and cranky. They were just not prepared see the logic in a priest – a fairly common individual like you, me, or any other person – give into his carnal desires and indulge in a bit of hanky-panky. The fact that they couldn’t even accept that this was based on a true story made the incident all the more funny. When will the day come that we separate our religious leaders from the aura of divinity we create around them.
We think that the makers were prepared for whatever backlash was to come their way when they were ballsy enough to go ahead and christen their film, Gandu. The copious oral sex and nudity in the film did it no favors either. The censors flat out denied its release but the online community took to it wholeheartedly, and today the film enjoys cult status on social-networking sites.
The latest victim of the censor board's blinkered vision. The film's themes of lesbianism entwined with Islamic terrorism were just too much for the fragile morals of our censor personnel to handle, and it was banned with the reason of posing a danger of stimulating unnatural passions among the audience. We don’t even know whether we should feel angry or laugh at that reason.
Images and Videos Sources: Trimark, Kaleidoscope, Zeitgeist, Fox Searchlight, YRF, PVR, Mirror Films, Dark Frames, and Q