Mumbai: Close on the heels of losing face after a landmark Bombay High Court judgement favouring Abhishek Chaubey’s Udta Punjab, it emerges that the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC, commonly referred to as the ‘Censor Board’) is causing trouble for another film.
Debutant Shlok Sharma’s Haraamkhor, starring Nawazuddin Siddiqui and Masaan (2015) actress Shweta Tripathi, is an indie drama that depicts the illicit relationship between a 14-year-old girl (Tripathi, in her first role) and her tuition teacher (Siddiqui) in a small town. It won the Silver Gateway Award (i.e. the runners-up) in the India Gold section of the 17th Jio MAMI Film Festival held in Mumbai last October.
However, the Examining Committee of the CBFC has declined to pass the film after a screening held last week. “They said they can’t give us a certificate because the entire theme of the movie is objectionable,” said Guneet Monga of Sikhya Entertainment, one of the producers of the film, in a phone conversation with HuffPost India.
She attempted to reason with members of the EC. “I told them ‘What do you mean it’s objectionable? This sort of thing happens, and this film has screened in Mumbai, it has won awards and accolades in many places around the world and people have connected with it.'”
For the EC, however, the problem with the film is much deeper. “Their main issue is that teachers are revered people in society and they can’t be shown having an affair with an underage girl,” said a source close to the film. “They also had some objections with the depiction of children making lewd gestures, using profanity, and committing acts of violence.”
Unfortunately, however, the members of the EC refused to debate the matter and the makers were sent a letter a few days later, telling them they can take the film to either the Revising Committee, which includes members of the Board, or to the Film Certification Appellate Tribunal (FCAT), which is presided over by a retired High Court judge.
The makers of Haraamkhor are opting for the latter option. “You don’t want to hear the same thing again and again,” she says, implying a sentiment that many filmmakers, like Anurag Kashyap, have been expressing lately — one is more likely to get a fairer verdict from the FCAT than the two committees of the CBFC, which its famously conservative chairman Pahlaj Nihalani keeps a tight leash on.
A court battle with the Censor Board in the vein of Udta Punjab is not an option for them. “It’s a small, mostly crowdfunded film,” she says. “We don’t have the resources to go and fight this out in the courts.” She relates the example of Pan Nalin’s Angry Indian Goddesses (2015), which was butchered by the CBFC before its India release last year. “They had to deal with crazy things like the word ‘lunch’ being muted,” she says, “and they couldn’t do anything about it because they were too close to the release date to take legal action.”
As of now, Monga is hopeful that the FCAT will give the film a fairer appraisal, so as to start working towards a release in the coming months.