'A' big headache for item songs

The Censor Board of Film Certification’s (CBFC) ‘new rule’ claiming to give an ‘A’ certificate to all item songs, whether promotional or not, is mired in confusion and controversy. The first to come out into the open after encountering the certification issue were producers of Shootout At Wadala for the song Babli Badmash.

Priyanka Chopra
Priyanka Chopra in Babli Badmash a song from Shootout At Wadala which was initially given an ‘A’ certification as per a new rule. Later, it was given a U/A certification by the Censor Board

When Balaji Motion Pictures, the makers of the movie, submitted the song picturised on Priyanka Chopra to the Censor Board, the regional officer informed them that the song will be given an ‘A’ certificate as per the new rule. Surprised, Balaji approached the revising committee, who gave the song a U/A certificate.

Earlier, a source from the production unit of Saheb Biwi Aur Gangster Returns - which has an item song picturised on actor Mugdha Godse - said, “Our song Media was also given an ‘A’ certificate and is not being promoted on TV channels.” On the other hand, the confusion regarding the rule intensified when Balaji contacted Censor Board CEO Pankaja Thakur. She assured them that the rule was not a blanket rule and that they would be given a clearance, which they eventually got.

However, Thakur had written a letter dated January 22, 2013, to the Union Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, (a copy of which is with MiD DAY), stating that CBFC had come up with a rule according to which item songs would be given an ‘A’ certificate and the rule was already enforced from January 15.

Surprisingly, she has been denying the same when producers are contacting her regarding the implementation of the rule as no circular has been given to any general film bodies or producers. Tanuj Garg, CEO, Balaji Motion Pictures, said, “We were told that the song would get an A certificate - by rule. However, later, we were told that the songs would be examined on a case-to-case basis.”

Filmmaker Madhur Bhandarkar said, “Right now we have not received any such circular. And what about the English songs on satellite channels? We, as Indian filmmakers, know our parameters and our songs are not vulgar. Remember our songs are played in weddings.”

Ace choreographer Ahmed Khan, who has choreographed three item numbers in Shootout At Wadala, including the ‘Babli Badmash’ song, said, “It is very difficult to cater to the masses with better item songs. The songs are a part of the film since movies like Teesri Manzil and Sholay. Now, with heroines doing item songs, the exposure quotient has gone down. Such a rule will be a major obstacle in promoting films.”

Meanwhile, Mukesh Bhatt, president of the Film and Television Producers Guild of India, said, “I have written a letter to the I & B Ministry (a copy of which is with MiD DAY). One can’t carry out such a sudden change when lots of films are in production and post-production stage and crores are at stake. The CBFC has to speak to producers and the guild and take them into confidence. Also, a specific time frame has to be set.”

Filmmaker Subhash Ghai said, “If a song or any scene hurts the sensibilities, religion or ethics of the audience, then they should give it an ‘A’ certificate. But how can an item song be defined? Suppose I shoot a song showing the love between Krishna and Radha, which has been shot many times. Will you call it an item song? One cannot ban a song just by slotting it as an item song.”

Director David Dhawan, who revived item songs in Bollywood with Makhna in Bade Miyan Chote Miyan, echoed Ghai’s sentiments. “Sometimes, the female lead in a film does the promotional track. Sometimes, the song is a part of the screenplay. I don’t understand how all of that can be slotted under the item song banner and be given an ‘A’ certificate?” CBFC CEO Pankaja Thakur remained unavailable for comment. 

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