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”.

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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.

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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.

 

FINDING FANNY (2014)

BollySitter Recommended Age: 15+ (For Mature theme, Mild Sexuality and Mild Violence)

BollySitter Family GO Factor: 2.0/5.0

The Review Monk TRM Score: 6.9/10.0

Directed by:     Homi Adajania

Starring:           Naseeruddin Shah, Arjun Kapoor, Deepika Padukone, Pankaj Kapur, Dimple Kapadia

Written By:      Homi Adajania, Kersi Khambatta

Language:        English, Konkani

Music by:         Mathias Duplessy, Sachin-Jigar

Produced by:   Dinesh Vijan

Lyrics by:        Alan Mercer, Dinoo, Jigar Saraiya, Sachin Gupta

Running time:  93 minutes

Content

The opening line of Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s book “Love in the time of Cholera” states – “It was inevitable: the scent of bitter almonds always reminded him of the fate of unrequited love”.

Finding Fanny is an idyllic & whimsical road movie set in Goa that’s short and breezy at 93 minutes long. The film is centered around five oddball & dysfunctional characters that live in a Goan village. Ferdie (played by Naseeruddin Shah), the melancholic and moping old postman of the village, receives back an undelivered letter, 46 years after he had written it to a girl named Fanny, professing his love to her. All that he wants now  is to find Fanny and proclaim her love.The movie is much more about the journey than the destination it is set out for.

Violence 

The film has a only a few mild violent scenes. There is an accidental death by a gunshot and blood is shown. Additionally, there is accidental murder of a cat which gets thrown out of a car. The film begins with a scene of chicken slaughter and finally there is another accidental death shown of a groom on his wedding day. In one scene, a man is hit by a car door leaving him down on the road in slithering pain and in another, a small fist fight is shown.

Intense & Frightening scenes

The pace of the movie is slow and relaxed. There is a scene where the Car with failed brakes and comes to a stop after a rather a long and scary ride. There is a dream sequence of an attempted suicide.

Sexuality 

There are a few scenes of kissing on lips. One of the characters (Pankaj Kapur) has a fetish for big women and Dimple Kapadia’s character is shown to have a big posterior (prosthetics are used). Pankaj Kapur’s character uses sexual innuendos and advances many times in the film. The young main leads are shown making out and sex is implied but not shown. There are few conversations referring to intimacy and sexual relationship between a man and a woman. Woman is shown climbing on top of the male character in order to seduce him. There is no frontal nudity but one scene shows bare back of a woman .

Language 

Language is mostly clean but there are mild cuss words used rarely such as :Idiot, balls, pussy, bloody, shit, bullshit, hell, screw, smack your  face, bastard etc. The movie is released in both English and Hindi. It is set in a small village in Goa and language is simple.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Drinking is shown in a few scenes and one of the scene features prominently in a long drawn out fashion and characters talking in an inebriated condition. No drugs or smoking is shown.

Attitude/Behavior

Each of the five lead characters have their own quirks and they showcase fluctuating behavior. The painter Don Pedro has a fetish for big bottomed women and has an ulterior motive to be on the road trip with the other four. There is plenty of contempt for each other apparent among a main characters amidst the camaraderie.

Discussion points

The movie is satirical and depicts many internal struggles that each grown up goes through during various stages of life. The young children will not be able to comprehend the theme and storyline of the movie but parents can talk to teenage children about the concept of love as a relationship of trust and companionship between two consenting adults. They can also tell children the importance of helping out friends unconditionally in their moment of need while not losing their own perspective and outlook to life.

Since teenage is also the time when children experiment with love and relationships, parents can consul children about not losing heart if one relationship fails but to move ahead as life can throw up many surprises if they keep a positive outlook towards life. Parents can also discuss topics regarding finding love in old age and widows seeking companionship.

Bechdel test 3/3

Roselina is portrayed as a sharp and domineering woman who likes to have her say in the society, yet, she bestows unconditional love and affection on her daughter-in-law Angie who was raised in an orphanage. Despite of short lived marriage between Angie and Roselina’s late son Gabo, they both live in the same house while giving space and respect to each other. The bonding between Roselina and Angie has shades of love, warmth, affection and co-dependence which is depicted throughout the movie.

Bottom line

Finding Fanny belongs to the offbeat stream and does not have any of the masala of a Mainstream Bollywood movie. Treatment of the movie is humorous, tone satirical and pace, easy. Even though the movie is not meant for family viewing or younger children, teenagers can watch this movie and learn about some of the sweet and not-to-sweet surprises that await them in a not too idealistic world. BollySitter recommend’s the film for 15+ years-old who can handle some mature theme.

For the quality of the film, check out the reviews @ http://thereviewmonk.com/movie/finding-fanny/