What is it that makes our Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) so afraid of certifying the open cinemas like Lipstick under Burkha or Ka Bodyscapes? Is it the content or the perception of the movie?
Film Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) had given hard time to both the makers of Lipstick under Burkha and Ka Bodyscapes, as the respective directors have been running from pillar to post to get their movies certified; only to be told that the movies will be banned in the country due to their explicit contents. Ironically, both the movies have successfully garnered several international critical acclaims, only to be kicked to the curbs in their own country.
Although issues religion and the gender narrative are the common reason cited for both the films, the real crux of the problem lies much deeper. CBFC felt that both Lipstick under Burkha and Ka Bodyscapes will end up hurting the religious sentiments (Muslim community in former’s case, Hindu community in the case of latter) if they are released. The portrayal of the gender is yet another issue that censor board cited in the movie. The Board found Lipstick under Burkha (too) “lady-oriended [oriented]” while “the subject of gay and homosexual relationship” in Ka Bodyscapes was put off for them.
What the CBFC does not say is that the makers of both the films had boldly broken the norms and mentioned the ‘unmentionables’ in their films. Both these movies prominently deal with the exploration of the gender identities and the sexualities of the characters. Lipstick under Burkha portrays the yearning of four women ranging from early twenties to break away from the stereotypical frame given to them by the society and go on to explore their “dreams and fears”. All these women crave to become something more than the role assigned to them by the society. One is a Muslim woman who wants to be more than ‘baby producing machine’ while other is the lady in her fifties who craves to lead a full life despite being a window.
If woman exploring her sexuality had been frowned upon by the censor board in Lipstick under Burkha, the man accepting his sexual identity was not acceptable for them either. Ka Bodyscapes boldly explores the homosexuality by the makers of the film. The films revolves around the gay artist who not only accepts his sexuality but explores it. The board found several issues with the movies including that concerns to the religion (Lord Hanuman mentioned along the same breath with homosexuality). Although Kerala High Court asked the CBFC to certify the film if the director agrees to remove the religious scenes from the movie, the Board blatantly denied the motion. It was not just the religious contents that Board was miffed about, but the content of the film itself. “The subject of gay and homosexual relationship” is the reason that Board gave for banning the movie. The board’s staunch stand against the film was so strong that they refused to allow the movie to be premiered in any film festivals in spite of the permission granted by the festival organizers themselves.
Both the movies are the classic examples as the stance of CBFC concerning to any narrative regarding the female sexuality and homosexuality. Ironically the CBFC does not seem to have any issue with the homosexuality if they are shown in some ridiculous context (case in point: Dostana where two all macho dudes follow the charade of being gay for an apartment). But as soon as some serious narratives of homosexuality comes along the line CBFC draws the line. Similarly, CBFC is comfortable if the female is shown in stereotypical roles but sooner a film talks about the women’s real narrative the CBFC prefers to push in dark corners of the rejected film shelves, where which according to them belong.
One thing that ties both the movies together is that CBFC conveniently used the crutch of the religion to avoid the plunge into the uncomfortable topic of discussing the need of alternate serious female narrative or the homosexual narrative. This makes the advancement in films of India appear to be a mere illusion. What our Indian cinema still seem to narrate or rather what CBFC prefers that Indian cinema narrate is same old stereotypical in contents with female character being wither saint or sinner or vanquisher of sinner. Her true internal desires especially have no place in the cinema. Similarly, homosexuality is still has to be seen in the conservative light for the film to be approved.
The acceptance of neither the female narratives nor the homosexuality, let alone their celebration, have no place in Indian cinema, just as they have no place in Indian society.