The Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) is once again inviting ire from the film fraternity for its decision to refuse certification of filmmaker Prakash Jha's upcoming production ‘Lipstick Under My Burkha’, starring Konkona Sensharma and Ratna Pathak Shah.
The board had objected to alleged ‘audio pornography, sexual scenes and use of abusive words’ in the film.
Listing the reasons for denial of certificate, the CBFC in a letter, posted by Bollywood celebrities online, wrote, "The story is lady oriented, their fantasy above life. There are sexual scenes, abusive words, audio pornography and a bit sensitive touch about one particular section of society, hence film refused under guidelines."
The decision was sharply criticised by prominent filmmakers and actors who described it as censor board chief Pahlaj Nihalani's ‘arrogance’.
The film's director Alankrita Shrivastava criticised CBFC's decision saying it is an ‘assault on women's rights’ and she will fight till the end to get her film released.
"I believe the decision to refuse certification to our film is an assault on women's rights. For too long the popular narrative has perpetuated patriarchy by objectifying women or minimising their role in a narrative. So a film like 'Lipstick Under My Burkha', that challenges that dominant narrative is being attacked because it presents a female point of view. Do women not have the right of freedom of expression? " she said in a statement.
The director said that she is determined to fight the decision till the end to ensure that Indian audiences watch movie.
"The real issue is the systematic suppression of women's voices and the throttling of freedom of expression," she added.
The film has won the Oxfam Award for the Best Film on Gender Equality at the Mumbai Film Festival and the Spirit of Asia prize at the Tokyo International Film Festival.
Nihalani, however, defended his decision, saying the film had very long explicit scenes and portrays phone sex.
He also said that makers can approach the Film Certification Appellate Tribunal (FCAT) to get the film released.
"The film was not cleared by examining committee and then it went to revising committee which also declined certification. The makers can now approach FCAT and get it cleared from there," Nihalani said.
This is not the first time Jha has faced problem with the censor board - the director was asked to make several cuts in the film and was also given an 'A' certificate. Jha later approached the Film Certification Appellate Tribunal and got a clean chit for the Priyanka Chopra-starrer.
When asked to respond to Shrivastava's claim that the decision was an attempt to curb freedom of expression, Nihalani said, "It is not the first film in the history of censor board to not get certification. We don't go out and tell which film gets certificate and which does not. It is their freedom of expression. Prakash Jha is an experienced filmmaker and he successfully managed to get his last film 'Jai Gangaajal' released without cuts. It is his right to approach the tribunal and the court to get his film cleared."
Besides Konkona and Ratna Pathak, "Lipstick Under My Burkha" also features Aahana Kumra, Plabita Borthakur, Sushant Singh, Vikrant Massey and Shashank Arora. The decision has attracted criticism from Bollywood celebrities like Farhan Akhtar, Vishal Dadlani and Renuka Shahane.
B-Town slams CBFC decision
Filmmakers Shyam Benegal, Sudhir Mishra, Neeraj Ghaywan among others have criticised the censor board's decision to refuse certificate to ‘Lipstick Under My Burkha’.
Taking an aim at the CBFC, Benegal said, "The censor board should certify the film not censor it. I'm against censorship of movies, to stop any film from being released is not justifiable."
Mishra questioned the board saying it does not have the right to stop talented and young directors from showcasing their work.
"What right does anybody have to stop imaginative, young talented directors like Alankrita from exhibiting her film. The point is not whether you (CBFC) like it or not... The youth has a right to express themselves," Mishra said.
"Masaan" director Ghaywan rallied support for Alankrita and tweeted, "@alankrita601's film #LipstickUnderMyBurkha that won an award for gender equality is being mansplained over being 'Lady oriented'. Irony!"
"I condemn the denial of #CensorCertificate to @prakashjha27 's film #LipstickUndermyBurkha. Its an act of arrogance by Pahalaj Nihalani," filmmaker Ashoke Pandit posted on Twitter.
Screenwriter and lyricist Varun Grover said the film will go to Film Certification Appellate Tribunal (FCAT) and get the clearance but the government will not act on the board.
"'Lipstick Under My Burkha', with a fantastic trailer, already won an award on Gender Equality at @MumbaiFilmFest. The film will go to FCAT, win the case. GOI will promise to change CBFC, some gullible folks will celebrate & then...NOTHING. REPEAT till infinity," he posted on Twitter.
Actress Dia Mirza tweeted, "News agencies need to stop calling it the 'Censor' board. It is a 'Certification' board. The CBFC is confused as is."
"Lipstick Under My Burkha" an award winning film by Alankrita Shrivastava refused a Certificate for these unfathomable reasons," actress Renuka Shahane wrote.
Sharing a screen shot of the CBFC's letter in which the reasons of the denial is listed, Farhan Akhtar tweeted, "Below is the reason CBFC listed for denying #LipstickUnderMyBurkha a release. Keep your barf bag ready.."
"Lipstick Under My Burkha" stars Konkona Sensharma, Ratna Pathak Shah, Aahana Kumra, Plabita Borthakur, Sushant Singh, Vikrant Massey and Shashank Arora.