• 2017: A Look at Some of the Movies That Came Under Fire This Year

    Lourdes M Supriya

    December 30, 2017

    This year witnessed another string of movies getting into trouble, for reasons that seem absurd at first, but a closer inspection reveals the underlying misogyny that seems to be becoming increasingly more acceptable. For instance, when the Malayam actress, Parvathy, spoke up against the rampant misogyny in the Malayam film industry, she was trolled by Mammotty’s fans. This rising misogyny has dangerous implications when coupled with the rising intolerance and communalism in the country, stoked by the ruling government for their own political agendas.

    Here is a list of some of the movies that were subjected to censor, either by the Central Board of Film Certification, the Information and Broadcasting Ministry, or by far-right groups.

    Left to Right: Kakkoos, Nude, Lipstick Under My Burkha

    Lipstick Under My Burqa 

    Originally slated to release in January, Lipstick Under My Burkha’s release was postponed by several months after it was denied certification by the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC). One of the reasons cited was that it was “lady oriented.” Now, why that is a reason for objection was lost on the makers (and us). But what did become clear was the censor board’s increasingly regressive attitude. In the months that followed, we saw more movies coming under the scanner over similarly backward views. The makers of the movie approached the Film Certification Appellate Tribunal (FCAT). After some 16 voluntary cuts to address FCATs concerns, and a few more suggested cuts, the FCAT finally directed the CBFC to give it an “A” certificate. The film eventually released in July 2017.


    This documentary, by Divya Bharathi, is about manual scavengers and their plight. The documentary, originally slated to release on February 26, was released on 4 March. It also attracted heavy opposition and censorship in Tamil Nadu, purportedly by BJP and its supporters, most prominent among them being K. Krishnasamy. He even accused the filmmaker of having brought shame to the community through her documentary. Bharathi received multiple rape threats and death threats; her family was also threatened. Due to sustained censorship, she eventually uploaded the movie to YouTube, after which multiple screenings were held across the country. The filmmaker also organised underground screenings to protest against the government action. Watch Bharathi talk about here, in an exclusive interview with ICF.

    Anaarkali of Arrah 

    The censor board ordered 11 cuts in the movie, including a scene that had Amitabh Bachchan and Amrish Puri’s names, and a “bold scene”. The board cleared the movie only after the makers complied with this order. Anaarkali of Arrah found itself in the midst of a controversy again when the Vice Chancellor of a local university in Arrah, Veer Kunwar Singh University (VKSU), demanded that an item number be cut because it showed Anaarkali, the titular character, performing at the silver jubilee celebration of the university. The VC alleged that the scene made the university look “lewd and bawdy.” As always, the controversy only highlighted the hypocrisy of a society that frequents—even enjoys—dance performances, but shuns it as “immoral” publicly.

    Jab Harry Met Sejal 

    Ok, it wasn’t the movie, per se, that ran into trouble; it was its trailer. According to reports, the CBFC objected to the use of the word "intercourse" in the trailer. However, on getting no response from the makers of the movie, Pahlaj Nihalani, the then CBFC chief, announced that he would clear the use of the word in the trailer, provided one lakh people from the general public voted saying that they had no objection to it. IANS quoted him as saying, “I want 1 lakh votes and I want to see that India has changed and Indian families want their 12-year-old kids to understand the meaning of this word (intercourse).”  Once again, Nihalani showed us his regressive attitude towards anything related to sex.

    S Durga 

    Sanal Sasidharan had a tough time screening his mvie in India. The movie had done well internationally, even winning the Hivos Tiger award at the International Film Festival of Rotterdam. However, the Jio MAMI Film Festival refused to screen the film since it hadn’t been cleared by the censor board. According to some reports, the filmmaker also received death threats from the president of the Hindu Swabhiman Sangh. The man, apparently, took offence at the word “Sexy” being used to refer to “Durga.” After some 21 audio mutes—and changing the name from Sexy Durga to S Durga, so as not to hurt “religious sentiments”—the film was given a certificate by a regional CBFC office. Barely a month later, the movie ran into trouble again when the Information and Broadcasting Ministry (I&B Ministry) itself stepped in and removed it from the list of movies that were to be screened in the Indian Panorama section at this year’s International Film Festival of India (IFFI), Goa, claiming that the uncertified version was going to be screened at the festival. The filmmaker, Sanal Sasidharan, moved the Kerala High Court, which overruled the I&B Ministry’s decision and directed the IFFI authorities to screen it. However, the CBFC intervened and announced that movie will not be screened, raising objections to the way the name of the movie was written (Sxxx Durga). So, not only must filmmakers give in to the censor board’s conservatism, they must also not register their dissent, as, perhaps, Sasidharan had meant to do through the use of ‘xxx’ to mark the changes he had been forced to make . S Durga, thus, joined other movies that faced backlash for “hurting the religious sentiments” of some right-wing group or the other, a trend symptomatic of the rising communalism and intolerance that the country is witnessing ever since the current government came to power.


    The Nation Award winning director Ravi Jadhav’s movie, Nude, was also dropped from the Indian Panorama section by the I&B Ministry. The movie—one of whose main characters is a poor woman who works as a nude model in an art institute, using the money to raise her son on her own—is a poignant story of two women who struggle to live life on their own terms, independently, without depending on any man.  While the reasons for dropping the film are unclear, some suspect that it might have been its name. If that is to be believed, it only shows how parochial the I&B Ministry is.


    Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s much anticipated movie was caught in the eye of the storm after coming under right-wing attack. For those not in the know, the controversy was, broadly speaking, about the movie’s “historical accuracy”. Karni Sena, the right wing group that was at the forefront of those demanding a ban on the movie, felt that the portrayal of Rani Padmavati was “offensive”, claiming that Rani Padmavati has been accorded the status of a demi-God among the Rajputs and, therefore, inaccuracies in her portrayal offends their religious sentiments. The Karni Sena not only warned of violence and riots if the movie was released, they even threatened to “chop off” Deepika Padukone’s (the actor who plays Padmavati) nose when she called their objections backward and regressive. The Karni Sena had also demanded that the movie be shown to a panel consisting of various representatives from the Rajput community; if they cleared the movie, the Sena would raise no further objections. The movie’s release, scheduled for 1 December, was ultimately postponed because of the mounting opposition. Needless to point out, it became another example of creative freedom taking a hit in the name of religion.

    Lourdes M Supriya is part of the editorial collective of Indian Writers' Forum

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