No one wants this festival back. Not even in a hundred years. Many said their goodbyes this time, hoping there won’t be another.
In the three-day ‘Cut-Uncut’ show organised by the Central Board of Film Certification, as part of the centenary celebrations of Indian cinema, films and censors battled it out, on three fronts – violence, sex and identity.
Scenes snipped off for being too violent or sexually explicit were shown, and film-makers and censors, like old jousting partners, won some battles and lost others, and even mounted a defence against a common foe: the audience.
A 20-minute clip of censored scenes of violence, dug out from reels settled in smelly tin cans, revealed the high tolerance for violence in the Indian audiences.
In one cut scene, from an unknown Tamil movie, a child is playfully tossed between two baddies over a burning inferno, while the mother, tied up, whimpers in anguish.
In another, from the film Thalapathi, Rajinikanth sets the villain ablaze in a temple courtyard, avenging his father’s death as the screaming antagonist knocks about, arms flailing, utterly helpless. While fire is a popular prop, so is blood. In a Nagarjuna-starrer, the hero wields a vicious blade – a cross between a sturdy sword and a sickle – and slashes the goons, the camera resting painfully on the turns and the thrusts of the blade.
The villain’s ankles are slit multiple times, till he becomes unsteady and falls.
All these scenes were cut.
But as K Hariharan, director of L.V. Prasad Film Institute and a film-maker, explained in a session, the cuts show a large appetite for violence.
But where does this appetite for violence come from? When a Censor Board was set up by the British in the 1920s, it was to curb Hollywood motion pictures promoting anti-colonialism; 80 per cent of films were American and 10 per cent were British.
The colonial institution stayed on in a newly independent nation.
After the 1950s, argues one school of thought, an idea of two Indias emerged in the language of cinema.
One of a beloved nation, which was to be romanced.
The other, a colonial legacy that was to be opposed.
In the guise of a love story, the protagonist romanced the nation and with violence he contested the state.
But that theory fails to explain the identity, religious and gender violence that shows up on the big screen.
Films that wooed ‘Bharat Mata’ also discriminated against other communities, religious beliefs and women.