'Curbing freedom of expression is absurd, scary' (IANS Interview) By Radhika Bhirani

August 04, 2017

'Curbing freedom of expression is absurd, scary' (IANS Interview) By Radhika Bhirani

New Delhi, Aug 4 : Indian filmmakers are living in "absurd and scary" times, given how they don't know what the "rules" really are, says Vikramaditya Motwane, who is one-fourth of the Phantom Films banner that produced the controversial "Udta Punjab".

"I worry about curbing of ideas... not so much about what you can make or what you cannot, because you don't know what the rules are. I understand the 'no smoking or drinking on screen', but rest of the time, I don't know what the rules are.

"You can't take sexual stories, you can't tell political stories... it's so vague. It's such a vague box, and that's scary. It sets censorship on a scary level. It reeks of fear," Motwane, who has directed "Udaan", "Lootera" and "Trapped", told IANS during a tete-a-tete here.

Stories of the Hindi film industry's run-ins with the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) have become an almost regular feature. Whether it was "Udta Punjab" and "Haraamkhor" or the latest "Lipstick Under My Burkha", "Indu Sarkar" and now "Babumoshai Bandookbaaz".

Sometimes the issue is about the words used, sometimes it's a reference to a politician or a place, sometimes it is about a story being too women-oriented and at times, the language is too vulgar.

Motwane does not agree with some of the censor board's disagreements.

"What I don't get is the 'Lipstick Under My Burkha' and 'Udta Punjab' kind of stuff... What do you mean by, 'You can't take a politician's name, can't say MP, police... it's absurd and scary. When you curb people's expressions on those lines, that's scary. It's scary because then what kind of stories are you going to tell?

"After all that, 'Udta Punjab' came... What happened? Did any controversy happen? People went and saw it peacefully... so what's the big deal? 'Lipstick...' has come uncut, and it's perfectly fine. Nobody is getting up and saying, 'Ye kya vaahiyaad picture hai (What a horrible film this is)'.... So, what is the big deal that you (CBFC members) have been making?

"Those things anger me."

Motwane, along with Anurag Kashyap, Madhu Mantena and Vikas Bahl, makes up Phantom Films that has also made films like "Queen", "NH10", "Masaan", "Hunterrr" and "Ugly".

He says the current scenario will lead to a time when filmmakers will start making "self-censored stuff right from the beginning".

"It's kind of pointless," rued Motwane, adding how "the whole point of filmmaking is to be expressive and tell a story for what it is, and be a window to the world".

But he says not having "explicit freedom of expression that allows us to say what we want is a constitutional problem... not so much a problem of filmmaking".

"Those are archaic British laws, and we have kept them because they are convenient to the government."

The censorship of films in India is governed by the Cinematograph Act, 1952. Recommendations to revamp the censorship process, made by a panel led by veteran filmmaker Shyam Benegal, were submitted to the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting last year. But the wait for its implementation continues.

Motwane spoke to IANS at the Word To Screen, Publishers Bootcamp by Jio MAMI here last week.