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Flimsy Reasons for Banning Films
|by Dr. Ratan Bhattacharjee|
Didigiri in West Bengal on ‘3 Kanya’
For nearly the entire history of film production, certain films have been banned by film censorship or review organizations for political or moral reasons. Censorship standards vary widely by country, and can vary within an individual country over time due to political change or shifting moral attitudes.Many countries have government-appointed or private commissions to censor and rate productions for film and television exhibition. Recently films have been explicitly prohibited from public screening in West Bengal.
Agnidev Chatterjee’s 3 Kanya is not allowed for screening in the Star theatre whatever reasons may be there behind. The film contains a story that resembles the Park Street Rape incident and also the story of the brave IPS officer reminding the audience of Damayanti Sen. Many taste the bite of censorship because of such incidents although Chief Minister Mamata Banerjeee says that things are blown out of proportion and she is not even aware of such films being screened in the Star Theatre. She is also very upset.
This kind of attack on the films is not new and there have been numberless instances of such administrative interference. Since 1959, in India also we have seen such attempts to ban films or stall shows in a number of theatre halls . ‘Neel Akasher Neechey’ was banned for two years for overt political overtones; it showed the troubles faced by an immigrant Chinese wage laborer in 1930s Calcutta. ‘Nine Hours to Rama’ was banned for depicting the psychological motivations of Nathuram Godse, the assassin of Mahatma Gandhi. Sikkim was banned for showing Chogyal-ruled Sikkim as a sovereign state. The ban was lifted in September 2010. ‘Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom’ was banned for its "racist portrayal of Indians and overt imperialistic tendencies".
Recently Oscar-nominated filmmaker Ashvin Kumar’s Dazed in Doon based on the life in Doon school was banned by the Dehradun court. Nandita Das’s debut directorial venture ‘Firaaq’ was banned because it was based on the Gujarat riots. ‘Firaaq’, an ensemble film with multiple interconnected narratives, was set over a 24-hour period, one month post the riots. When Ashutosh Gowarikar’s ‘Jodhaa Akbar’ was released , people belonging to the Kshatriya (Rajput) community in Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh protested against the movie because they believed that the film portrayed distorted historical facts. However, a month later the Supreme Court lifted all restrictions imposed on its screenings by various state governments. Kamal Khan’s debut movie ‘Deshdrohi’ was banned in Maharashtra because the government thought it would escalate an issue surrounding Maharashtrians versus North Indians. Rahul Dholakia's 2007 film ‘Parzania’ starring Naseeruddin Shah and Sarika was also banned. It was based on the true story of a 10-year-old Parsi boy who disappeared during the 2002 Gujarat riots. The Censor Board had cleared the film, but it was not screened in Gujarat because of an unofficial ban.
Thus on this or that ground, some justified, and some filmsy, films and dramas were banned in India and in West Bengal. Since there exists nothing like a please-all film, many films end up irking some segment or the other and in the process a few of them end up getting prohibited from screening. This is more likely in a multi-cultural and conservative country like India. This trend of film censorship originates from the Cinematograph Act 1918, which was later repealed by the Cinematograph Act, 1952. In the international scene also we know that the banning of films occurred many times. ‘Benhur’ (1959) was never allowed for screening because it contained propaganda of superstitious beliefs namely Christianity. ‘Farewell, My Concubine’ a Chinese film that won the Cannes Film Festival Palme d'Or, was banned in a period due to homosexual themes and negative portrayal of communism. ‘Battleship of Potemkin’ was banned due to fears that it could inspire revolution. Even in the last year ‘Valley of the Wolves: Palestine’ was banned in Germany, because of initial concerns over the film's perceived anti-Israeli and anti-American overtones. ‘Long Road to Heaven’, an Indonesian film about the 2002 Bali bombings was also banned on the island of Bali, as local politicians worried that the film might promote hatred and intolerance. ‘Hitler the Last Ten Days’ was banned in a unanimous decision by the censorship board that Alec Guinness’s Hitler was represented in too human a light.
Creative artists should be given freedom to express their ideas (words, pictures, music and films. However, the way the government interferes directly or indirectly as it happens in West Bengal in recent times is deplorable. No real change has come. There are many film directors who shows their creativity by means of movies in which they try to present their thoughts and make audience feels as where these thoughts fits in society or in their life. The halting of shows of 3 Kanya at Star theatre is not done directly by the state government. But some of the ministers of the Mamata Banerjee government have made it clear that they will play some role in ensuring that the film did not reach the Star theatre. However, publicly, Mamata Banerjee says that any attempt to muzzle film directors, actors and actresses sends wrong signals. The Artage manager of the Star Theatre says that the length of the film stood in the way of screening the film in the Star theatre. But this is a filmsy ground. Long ago when cinema halls were not that modern, the screening of ‘Sangam’ in many cinema halls faced such a problem but still ‘Sangam’ went houseful. Nobody argued for halting the shows. No comment was made on the resemblances between the Park Street rape incident and the story of the film. Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee could not forget the incident even today which she initially described with her usual fervor ‘Sajano Ghatona’ , fabricated incident. But by stalling shows, such incidents cannot be so easily erased from public memory although Madam CM does not involve herself directly in the sponsorship.
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