Malayalam film Aabhaasam is the latest to face the CBFC's scissor-happy ways. The film, a social satire, has been certified 'A' by the CBFC, which has also asked the filmmakers to mute certain dialogues and make cuts in the film.
Speaking to TNM, director Jubith Namradath says that there is nothing defamatory in his film and that the references made in it are suitable to the satire genre.
"CBFC, after viewing the film, straightaway gave an 'A' certificate. And this was provided we mute some dialogues. There are an umpteen number of questions - what happens if we don't mute the dialogues? Don't we get anything (certification) at all? We wanted to discuss what we can do to make the film 'U/A' but they were not ready to discuss that. It was as if they'd decided and this is what it was going to be," he says.
Jubith adds that the dialogues the CBFC wants muted are not derogatory as they claim.
"We were in a fix and we thought we'll go to the review committee. That's what we're planning to do," he says.
Jubith doesn't understand why the CBFC has given the film an 'A' certificate when there is no nudity or gory violence in it which usually warrants adult certification.
"We put up the question - why 'A'? We don't have violence, we don't have nudity. And they straightaway said it's because it's anti-establishment! I'm really not sure if there's a criteria like that - anti-establishment means 'A' certificate," he says.
Jubith points out that satirical films have to be anti-establishment.
"The CBFC committee actually viewed the film on the 26th of December. We wanted the film to be included in 2017. They viewed the film on the 26th and kept us waiting till the 4th of January. They issued a letter as if they'd viewed the film on the 4th. They did tell us that this is what it was going to be but the notice had this date and not the previous one. They made it this year's film deliberately. We don't know why they had to do that," he alleges.
Jubith rues that the 'A' certificate will limit the reach of the film.
Asked about the CBFC's increasing interference in the liberty of filmmakers, Jubith says, "I'm facing the censor board for the first time. I was surprised to see how they view films. If they see a woman smoking, that is anti-establishment. It's common for men to smoke and put a disclaimer at the bottom of the screen. But if you show a woman smoking, just the card will not do. That kind of viewing a film, I really don't understand."
Jubith says that women members of the CBFC had problems with a scene where the lead actor of the film, Suraaj Venjaramoodu, has his leg up on a milestone and is speaking to the audience.
"They said that the women members couldn't watch it because his thighs were shown! When they objected to this, we didn't even know which scene they meant...where Suraaj 'shows off' his thighs. That shot was actually made by the producer as the cover photo," he says, with a laugh.
Commenting on the suffocating levels of censorship, Jubith asserts that the CBFC should be more broad-minded about how they certify films and that it's unfair to limit films with such unreasonable demands.