Nobel laureate, Irish playwright and critic George Bernard Shaw rightly said that “the first condition of progress is the removal of censorship”. Far from removing censorship, it seems that the Central Board of Film Certification has imbibed unabridged powers. An apt example is the Board headed by Pahlaj Nihalani that has become the favourite child of controversies. It has once again shown its might by refusing to certify Prakash Jha’s upcoming film Lipstick Under My Burkha, for its alleged sexual scenes, abusive words and audio pornography. Of late, the CBFC has been in news for all the wrong reasons, weather it was the unnecessary controversy during the release of ‘Udta Punjab’ or the scissor threatened on the Oscar-winning ‘Moonlight’ before allowing it a certification. The Board has been overzealous in the execution of its duties, to say the least.
Lipstick Under My Burkha is a movie about the journey of four women of different ages exploring their freedom and their craving for men and sex. It is a Prakash Jha film starring Ratna Pathak Shah, Konkona Sen Sharma, Aahana Kumra and Plait Borthakur and has been directed by Alankrita Shrivastava, who had earlier directed ‘Turning 30’. The film has already won awards, including the Oxfam Award at the Mumbai Film Festival for ‘Best Film on Gender Equality’ and the Spirit of Asia Prize at the Tokyo International Film Festival. The movie has bagged the audience award at the Glasgow Film Festival. It is indeed ironic that the very film that has won an award for ‘Best Film on Gender Equality’ could be labelled having ‘audio pornography’ and ‘lady-oriented!’ Significantly, the CBFC took a decision to not allow this film for screening in January itself (copy of CBFC letter dated January 25, 2017, with Tehelka). The letter allows 14 day’s time to Prakash Jha Productions, Andheri Mumbai to prefer an Appeal to the Reviewing Committee and 30 days to FCAT.
One finds that creative liberty has been at the receiving end at the CBFC and film makers who dare to think out of box and make meaningful cinema, are being gagged. In the process, these film makers suffer financial losses and receive bad publicity. The creative fraternity cannot be perpetually harassed for thinking differently and out of the box. It is the artiste’s obligation to rip off the veil on hitherto forbidden issues and ideas, and it is the duty of society to accommodate creativity. Censored minds would only remain closed minds and an informed society needs creative ideas to flow from everyone and everywhere.