Censor Board’s cultural policing effects on Artistic Freedom

This weekend the controversial feature MSG – The Messenger finally released in theatres. We at BollySitter do not plan on reviewing a film that anyone other than the followers of self-proclaimed Guru/demi-god Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh will find worth spending their time or money on. Most of the Bollywood cinema is kitschy at best and sheer torture at worst served in the name of entertainment, and we at BollySitter have more than often felt the pain while reviewing so-called “popular masala films”.

msg

Earlier this week when popular Bollywood star Aamir Khan called AIB’s Roast of actors Arjun Kapoor and Ranveer Singh a “violent” act, he received counter-criticism from certain quarters with people calling the actor, who has himself produced a “violently” raunchy comedy called “Delhi Belly”, a hypocrite. But Aamir cleverly hid behind the curtain of the censor board, stating that his movie was made for a specific audience and was approved by the board for that category of viewers, while also highlighting the difference between fictional characters (in a movie) and real people (the recipients of the AIB roast). When the Roast also drew flak from other authorities and the self-proclaimed “culture police” across the nation, AIB was forced to take down the controversial video recordings of the event from their YouTube Channel, fearing legal action.

aib

This past Friday when CBFC Chairman, Pahlaj Nihalani, sent out a circular to the Regional Offices (ROs) of the Censor Board, listing out words and phrases that he feels are objectionable and abusive, and worthy of being deleted from films, he drew criticism from within the board itself. Nihalani was appointed as Chairman of the Board by the Central Government after the previous Chair Leela Samson and her entire Board quit over MSG – The Messenger being cleared by the Film Tribunal despite the Board calling it a propagandist film and refusing to give it a Certificate. The Tribunal has the authority to override CBFC’s decision and clear any film for release that the board may have raised objections with, in the first place, but it appears certain rules were overlooked and film was cleared without the due process. In a somewhat related story, recently there was also a huge cry on Twitter when the Censor Board reinstated a ban on usage of the word “Bombay” (instead of “Mumbai”) in Mihir Joshi’s music video of the song “Sorry”.

Freedom of expression is an essential ingredient in a true democracy and censorship and restrictions on speech do not allow creativity to flourish.  Over the past few days, we at BollySitter have passionately debated the role of CBFC members in certifying (or not) movies like MSG – The Messenger, banning the use of words like “Bombay”, forcing the annoying appearance of the phrase “Smoking Kills” anytime someone smokes on screen, criticizing AIB’s roast of Arjun Kapoor and Ranveer Singh and how it all relates to BollySitter and its core mission.

Whether one likes a particular film, song, book or a written piece is entirely the freedom of choice that they have. It should not be up to CBFC or anyone else to decide what one can or cannot read or watch. CBFC has anyway been inconsistent in its job to appropriately rate content, especially for the younger audience. On one hand, a bloody and violent sequence in a movie rated U/A is not approved by the censor board while on another, an overtly sexual situation or a scene containing objectionable language is passed without appropriate rating or parental guidance. There are no set parameters or rules and it often appears that their job is to either please the culture police (by banning words or content that some group finds objectionable) or to please the higher authorities. Of course none of us want inappropriate content to reach impressionable children, but banning should not be the solution. CBFC’s job should be to provide a medium that informs people, and let the audience decide on their own what is good for them and what is not. The need of the hour is not stringent censorship but an overhaul of the parental guidance system, a source that provides fair and trustworthy information and tools to the viewers, as well as a discussion forum so that families can make an informed decision about the media they consume.

Let us give the artistes their freedom, and not give undue attention and unnecessary hype to the likes of MSG-The Messenger, a movie that probably would not have garnered this much attention had it been certified in the first place, and would have died a natural death on the day of its release anyway.

 

PK (2014)

BollySitter Recommended Age:         10+ (For adult language and sexuality)

BollySitter Family GO Factor:           4.0/5.0

The Review Monk TRM Score:          7.9/10.0

 

Directed by:     Rajkumar Hirani

Produced by:   Rajkumar Hirani, Vidhu Vinod Chopra, Siddharth Roy Kapur

Screenplay by: Abhijat Joshi, Rajkumar Hirani

Starring:           Aamir Khan, Anushka Sharma, Sushant Singh Rajput, Boman Irani, Saurabh Shukla, Sanjay Dutt

Music by:         Ajay Atul, Shantanu Moitra, Ankit Tiwari

Lyrics by:        Swanand Kirkire

Language:       Hindi

Running time: 153 minutes

Genre(s):         Comedy, Social Drama

 

PK_Theatrical_Poster

 

BollySitter says

Aamir Khan’s PK is a no waste of time. It’s a complete entertainer and can be enjoyed with the whole family. Apart from a mild reference to implied sex (which are already shown in the trailers) there isn’t anything to be worried about. The film’s director Rajukumar Hirani has already proved himself to be a master storyteller who portrays society’s problems in a light- hearted manner. PK also deals with complex stereotypes, philosophies, and orthodox beliefs in a very humane way without getting heavy-handed.

Content

PK is a story about a stranger named PK in the city, who asks questions that no one has asked before. They are innocent, childlike questions, but they bring about catastrophic answers. People who are set in their ways for generations, are forced to reappraise their world when they see it from PK’s innocent eyes. In the process PK makes loyal friends and powerful foes, mends broken lives and angers the establishment. PK’s childlike curiosity transforms into a spiritual odyssey for him and millions of others. The film is an ambitious and explores the complex philosophies and beliefs. It is also a simple and humane tale of love, laughter and letting-go.

Violence 

Apart from some slapstick violence and chases there is no physical violence shown. There is a scene of bomb blast in which few dead bodies are shown.

Sexuality

There are a few scenes where moving cars are shown implying couples having sex in them, no nudity is shown, faded moaning can be heard. In the opening scene PK is shown to be naked but nothing explicit is shown. Those scenes are also shown in the trailers. In one scene a character visits a prostitute. Age appropriate romance and one lip kiss is shown.

Language 

Language is mild with only minor cuss words like “tharki”, “harami” and “kamina” are used. In one sequence where two characters talk about a condom and its purpose, the discussion is humorous.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking

None

Discussion points

*SPOILER ALERT* (Only because the main plot of the film is not revealed in the trailers)

PK is an important film because it provides a lot of talking points for parents and other moviegoers. The main character, who is shown to be ignorant of the societies’ beliefs and other stereotypes, asks a lot of innocent questions which leave people tongue tied. The film questions fundamentalism and organizations of all the religions and how Godmen and priests are taking advantage of innocent people’s fear of God. PK asks some very smart questions which can be a good discussion points for the parents, and what kids think about the place of religion in life.

Apart from religion, the movie also questions how politics of the two neighboring countries has created a pre-conceived bias in the minds of their citizens who form views of other country’s citizens without fully knowing or understanding them. PK also brings up the taboo Indian topic of sex as a topic of discussion.

PK touches upon the current model of 24/7 news channels who feed news not to educate people about important current affairs and worthy stories, but to simply raise viewership to increase revenues. PK the film itself, however, doesn’t feel shy about product placements which are thrown in throughout the film.

Bechdel Test = 0/3

PK has only one main female character.

 

For the quality of the film, check out the reviews on http://thereviewmonk.com/movie/pk/

Bollysitter Recommends: JO JEETA WOHI SIKANDAR (1992)

BollySitter Recommended Age:         10+ (For language and mild sensuality)

BollySitter Family GO Factor:           4.5/5.0

Directed by:    Mansoor Khan

Starring:          Aamir Khan, Mamik, Deepak Tijori, Ayesha Jhulka, Kulbhushan Kharbanda, Pooja Bedi

Music by:        Jatin-Lalit

Produced by:   Nasir Hussain

Lyrics by:        Majrooh Sultanpuri

Running time: 158 mins

Genre(s):         Comedy, Drama, Thriller
JJWS_img

 

SYNOPSIS

“JO JEETA WOHI SIKANDAR (JJWS)” is a 1992 sports/coming-of-age Hindi drama that highlights the importance of honesty, discipline, leadership and team-spirit in life, for all youngsters who aspire to make a name for themselves in the any field and especially sports. The film was a major hit when it was released over twenty years ago and remains a superior entertainer for both the young and adults to this very day.

 

JJWS is the story of two brothers from one of the three all-boys schools in Dehradun. An existing rivalry between three all-boys schools manifests itself through the annual sports championship. While the elder brother, portrayed on screen by Mamik, is serious-minded, disciplined, respectful and an excellent sportsman, the younger one, played by Aamir Khan, is happy-go-lucky, mischievous, unscrupulous, street-smart and at times deceitful. The plot of the film revolves around how the younger brother realizes the mistakes he has made in his life and how he restores the pride of his family, his brother and his school by winning the championship-defining bicycle race in the end.

 

WHY WATCH?

JJWS is not just a serious tale about a boy growing up but a complete entertainer, Bollywood style, with memorable music and wonderful locations. The storyline is replete with elements that tickle your bone, make you laugh, get you thinking, tug your hearts and give you an adrenaline rush, all within two and a half hours.

 

JJWS has characters and episodes that kids can learn a lot from. Sibling love, honesty in any relationship, respectfulness towards elders and dedication towards your goals are at the heart of this film. There are takeaways galore throughout, including what not-to-do, that adults will have no problems in discussing with their children.

 

Lying to your friends, stealing, using cuss words, being manipulative and cheating in sports are some of the areas that are rightfully portrayed in a negative light via both comic as well as serious episodes throughout the film. Things do get a little bit heavy and melodramatic at times but those instances are far and few in between.

 

A WORD OF CAUTION

BollySitter recommends this film for kids over 10 years of age. There are sequences where young school boys are shown smoking, saying cuss words (“Shit”, “Bloody Bastard”, “Haraamzaade”), flirting with girls and fighting with each other. Lying, stealing and disrespectful attitude towards is depicted but is never glorified and their consequences are also shown, so as to dissuade kids from adopting such attitude. There is a kissing scene between two characters and a scene where the skirt of a female is shown raised higher than usual, while she dances. However, none of these are overtly sexual in nature.

 

THE FINAL VERDICT

“Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikander” is a rare sports film from Bollywood that not only entertains but educates as well. With a story that is for and about youngsters, a high entertainment quotient owed to memorable music, delightful comedy and thrilling moments and a higher than usual quality of performances and direction, BollySitter gives JJWS a “GO” rating of 4.5/5.0.