Unwarranted interference: Bollywood films that faced opposition other than Censor Board
Notwithstanding certification from the censor board, filmmakers also have to face stiff opposition from organisations such as religious bodies and producers’ organisations, 'Koyelaanchal' being the latest victim
Producer-director Asshu Trikha’s upcoming film, Koyelaanchal, that stars Suniel Shetty and Vinod Khanna, has been facing troubles. Trikha had to get the film’s posters and publicity material re-done as the Association of Motion Pictures and Television Programme Producers (AMPTPP) objected to a line in the posters. It seems that AMPTPP didn’t want the line ‘Sabse bada mafia Bharat sarkaar hai’ to be included in the film’s posters.
Koyelaanchal’s publicity material had to be changed after a producers’ body objected to a line in the film’s posters. The film’s original poster (left) and the new one without the line, ‘Sabse bada mafia Bharat sarkaar hai’
Asshu Trikha says, “If AMPTPP does not approve of the publicity material, then the producer can’t apply for a censor certificate. AMPTPP told me that I either remove the line or give it in writing that if someone raises an objection or creates legal trouble, I shall be solely responsible. I had no choice but to make the changes.”
Actor Suniel Shetty, who plays a district collector in the film, says, “It is very sad that objections are being raised even though people haven’t watched the film. Nobody stands up for us and these associations continue to raise objections.”
We look at other films that faced similar issues due to the opposition of organisations other than the censor board.
Phantom, that stars Saif Ali Khan and Katrina Kaif, is supposed to be a cross-country film with the plot spanning India, Lebanon, USA and UK. In the film, Saif plays a character that goes by the name Daniyal Khan and this was also the film’s working title. The makers were apparently told by some religious organisations that the film’s name was insensitive to the minority community. As a result, it was changed to Phantom.
Facing opposition from salon and beauty parlour associations, Shah Rukh Khan’s production house dropped ‘Barber’ from the film name, calling it Billu
Similarly, Indian Motion Pictures Producers Association (IMMPA) raised objections to Mritunjay Devvrat’s film, The Bastard Child. The director then had to change it to Children of War. “No scene had to be cut, but I had to change the name. I went by their decision, as I wish to complete all formalities and release the film as soon as possible. In India and Bangladesh, it will release as Children of War. The original title will stay the same abroad,” Mritunjay recently said in an interview.
In September 2013, the Akal Takht, the highest temporal body of the Sikhs, objected to a film titled Singh Sahib the Great. The organisation pointed out that using the words ‘Singh Sahib’ in a film’s film was disrespectful. In the end, makers released the film as Singh Saab the Great.
Another instance is when salon and beauty parlour associations were up in arms against Shah Rukh’s production, then titled Billu Barber. With the association raising objections to the use of the word ‘barber’, SRK’s production house then decided to drop the word ‘barber’ from the title in its pre-release promotional campaigns.
Scenes under attack
The Tamil Nadu government banned Kamal Haasan’s film, Vishwaroopam, as it feared law and order problems in the light of opposition by a few Muslim groups. Muslim groups said that the film portrayed Muslims as terrorists. Kamal Hassan finally had to delete seven scenes from his film and some scenes were also muted.
Ajay Devgn deleted some scenes from Son of Sardaar as they were deemed offensive by Sikh community leaders
In a similar fashion, Ajay Devgn had to remove some scenes from Son of Sardaar as they were deemed offensive by Sikh community leaders. He even screened the film for community leaders from the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee in Amritsar after objections were raised regarding controversial dialogue and imagery in the film’s trailer.
In 2009, Kaminey’s makers faced troubles when Jagannath Sena Sangathan filed an FIR (First Information Report) against them at a police station in Puri. The organisation was upset about the line ‘Apna Haath Jagannath’ being written on a poster showing a scantily clad woman on the wall of a public toilet. The objectionable portion of
the scene was then removed from the prints that were released in Orissa.
Nowadays most of these associations have political backing and they come and stall shoots. It is stupid that such objections are raised in the first place. Some associations have proved to be helpful but the most ineffective association is the directors’ association.
It’s extremely unfortunate. If you are shooting in a village and a cow passes by, we have to take someone’s permission. Objections only strangle filmmakers’ creativity, as we have to keep in mind the sensibility of scores of people.
Intolerance in our society has grown over the years. Today many institutions can’t do anything in real life, so they try to influence the virtual world. They target films and television. That’s pre-censorship and clearly, no one wants to protect our great heritage.
There was a Supreme Court ruling that said that once a film has been certified, there can’t be an injunction against it. It is the duty of the central government to exhibit the film after it has the approval from the censor board. Luckily, things are improving now.