Censor board and sensibility out of tune

Published: Dec 15, 2013, 08:57 IST | Shubha Shetty-Saha |

What is it that makes the Censor Board go up in arms about certain scenes and dialogues in films when so many Bollywood songs are replete with shockingly explicit lyrics? Shubha Shetty-Saha begs the question on the selective nature of an otherwise easily-ruffled regulatory body

A cultural event is in progress at a housing society in the city. Five-year-old Mini comes on stage to dance to Pinki Hai Paisewalon ki. Standing right next to her is her proud papa giving hercues and lipsyncing, in case she misses a step.

Soon after, amidst loud applause, comes in Paayal with her brother and they shake their rear after every two seconds to the song, since they are dancing to the latest song which talks about Tooh, a woman’s butt.

Oh wait, that’s not all, soon they would be dancing to a song called Wah babbe, which, if loosely translated, means appreciation of a woman’s breasts. And all these lyrics went unchecked right under the nose of the Censor Board.

It is ironic that while we are trying to protect our children from all sorts of “harm” by keeping them away from sexual and violent content in films, the songs reach them anyway, thanks to the catchy tunes and the marketing techniques. So the question is, don’t we need to protect our children from songs where a Pinky is trying hard to sell herself to a paisewala or a Chameli wanting to play with the “lions” in the jungle?

The song Chikni Chameli from the film, Agneepath, famously (or infamously?) carried a tune which could easily ruffle a few feathers

Lyricist Amitabh Bhattacharya prefers playing safe and says that the lyricist just does a job in hand. “These kind of item songs have been around for a while now. The guy who writes these lyrics doesn’t do it for his individual pleasure. We do know that the final authority is someone else.

More than the Censor Board, I think the homes where these songs play should have some kind of personal censorship. We need to be responsible as a society and as the caretakers of children. When I was a child, there was this song, Choli Ke Peeche that had become a rage. Sure, I jived to the song when I was a kid, but my parents knew where to draw the line. So I guess I was lucky. So it is all about individual choices and how the environment of your house is.”

The song Tooh from Gori Tere Pyaar Mein has been penned by Anvita Dutt

However, lyricist Kumaar is more forthright about the situation. He says, “Sometimes as a lyricist I am not too proud of what I write. But what has now happened is that the makers insist on a hookline for every song. This hookline has become the bane of our lives. What started as naughty catchy numbers has worsened, thanks to competition.

I had written a song, Ek Doosre Ko Hum Sone Na De… I was not happy at all because it so openly spoke about sex. But then it went on to become a hit. People liked it. All of us have to survive in the film industry. So when we are presented with situations which demand nothing but bawdy songs, we are forced todo it. And the truth is 98 per cent of the scripts today are like that. I have written great songs like Mere nishaan in Oh My God. But how many of those opportunities are offered to us?

"Sometimes as a lyricist I am not too proud of what I write. What has now happened is that the makers insist on a hookline for every song. We all have to survive here. So when were are presented with situations which demand nothing but bawdy songs we are forced to do it" -- Kumaar, lyricist

Most often we are given scripts like Grand Masti and we have to think of some lines to match the script. Catchline or hooklinehas become the be all and end all and the makers don’t care what levels you go to, as long as it becomes sensational. I am accused of writing such songs too and i can honestly admit thatwhen we write such vulgar songs,we write with the purpose of making it vulgar. We are expected to make it sound vulgar.I wish the Censor Board was more responsible in nipping these kind of songs in the bud, but since it hasn’t now we are standing right in the middle of the sea and expect only worse.”

Survival vs conscience
Lyricist Irshad Kamil is one of the few who refused to be a part of this new race to get the bawdiest lyrics written. He says, “These songs show insecurity at two levels. Now that the returnsare expected within the first two days of the film’s release, filmmakers somehow want the audience to come to the theatres and they in some weird way think using a song of this manner helps that. This speaks of insecurity of the filmmaker in his ownproduct. And also the insecurity of the lyricists who accept these things and are going down to crazy levels.

Amitabh bhattacharya
"Item songs have been around for a while now. The lyricist doesn't write them for himself. We all know that the final authority is someone else. As regard to censorship, it all boils down to individual choice."-- Amitabh Bhattacharya, lyricist

I understand one needs to survive here but one also has to answer to one’s conscience. I have quit movies where I was expected to write these kind of songs, where i was given clear instructions that they want a really vulgar song. The truth is these songs are added not only for those kind of A-rated movies, but also to otherwise clean movies. I look at it as a social responsibility of each of us to keep a check on our personal conscience and not allow these things. Earlier there used to be double entendres in songs, but now it is straight to the point.”

In her defence the Censor Board's Leela Samson says, "Yes, lyrics do play a large part. We have deleted a lot of objectionable lyrics from the songs or ask the film makers to get them rewritten or reshot. There have been innumerable cases like that. About the recent songs that you are talking about, you will have to talk to the CEO at the CBFC Mumbai. As I am unaware how they got through."

One then wonders -- if the Censor Board does not bell the cat, who will?

Objectionable lyrics
1. I Am A Hunter She Wants To See My Gun: Gangs of Wasseypur
2. Pallu Ke Neeche/Chupake Rakha Hai / Utha Doon Toh Hangama Ho: Rowdy Rathore
3. Laila Teri Le Legi Tu Likh Ke Lele: Shootout At Wadala
4. Kaddu Kategi Toh Sabme Bategi: Zanjeer
5. Don’t Touch My Body O Mere Saiyaan, Tera Jala Dungi Gada Aur Takiya: Bullet Raja

Kamil pens a protest
Noted lyricist Irshad Kamil pens a few lines exclusively for sunday Mid day on the topic
"Kalam ne chhodi sharam alfaaz nange hogayi...
Geet ki izzat nikli sikkon ki jhankaar ho gayi...
Aa mere saathi mere humdum main tujhko pyar doon...
Tehzeeb ka ehsaas doon ek naya kirdaar doon...
Main abhi anmol hoon iss adab ke bazaar mein...” 

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