Bollywood is the largest film industry in the world in terms of number of movies produced every year. However, apart from all the hits, flops and the average, there exists another brand of Indian cinema which is deliberately kept out of our reach.
Films that indulge in strong (read bold) language, suggestive (read vulgar) scenes, gender taboos, Kashmir issues, religion and basically movies which are way ahead of its time. Here’s a list of movies which the Censor Board banned, not that the viewers missed any of it!
1. Bandit Queen (1994)
Bandit Queen was straight up ‘offensive’, ‘vulgar’, ‘indecent’ and almost laughed at the cinematic conservatism of the Indian censor board. The subject was such. Based on the life of Phoolan Devi, this Shekhar Kapur movie was banned due its explicit sexual content, nudity and abusive language, which the Censor Board could not (obviously) digest.
2. Fire (1996)
Deepa Mehta’s work is recognised for its global content and appeal. However, closer home, that translates to controversy. Among others, one such movie was ‘Fire’ which garnered a lot of critical acclaim worldwide but failed to impress Hindu groups (like Shiv Sena) in India due to its subject, which dealt with lesbian relationship between two sisters-in-laws in a Hindu family. The controversy ended with the leading actors, Shabana Azmi and Nandita Das along with their director Deepa Mehta receiving death threats and Censor Board finally banning the movie in the country.
3. Kama Sutra – A Tale Of Love (1996)
Kama Sutra – A Tale Of Love (1996) In a rather hypocritical move, Kama Sutra – A Tale Of Love too faced the wrath of Censor Board which termed it ‘explicit’, ‘unethical’ and ‘immoral’ for the audiences of the nation which came up with the concept of Kama Sutra! This Mira Nair movie, which depicted the lives of four lovers in the 16th century in India, was a hit with the critics but a major flop with the Censor Board and ultimately got banned. We did see it coming.
4. Urf Professor (2000)
Urf Professor (2000) Another movie to run into trouble with the Censor Board was Pankaj Advani’s Urf Professor starring Manoj Pahwa, Antara Mali and Sharman Joshi. The movie traces the journey of the protagonist after a hit-man’s car and a winning lottery ticket goes missing and the chaos that follows. However, what irked the Censor Board were the ‘vulgar scenes’ and ‘bold language’ used in this black comedy, which ultimately led to a ban on the movie.
5. The Pink Mirror (2003)
The Pink Mirror (2003) While experimental movies became the norm, gender issues was still a touchy topic to explore. The Pink Mirror by Sridhar Rangayan is one such movie which brought the concept of trans-sexuality to the forefront. The story dealt with the quest of two transsexuals and a gay teenager to seduce a straight man. No prizes for guessing that the Censor board got offended by the ‘vulgarity’ in the movie and banned it even after the film garnered rave reviews at film festivals around the world.
6. Paanch (2003)
Paanch (2003) Paanch, an Anurag Kashyap movie, faced a lot of heat from the Censor Board. Said to be based on the Joshi-Abhyankar serial murders in 1997, the movie was a thriller with high octane violence, crass language and drug abuse. No wonder, the Censor Board decided to ban the film and people awaiting the release of the movie had to make-do with the pirated version of the film.
7. Black Friday (2004)
Black Friday (2004) Loosely adapted from the famous book Black Friday – The True Story of the Bombay Bomb Blasts by S Hussain Zaidi, Anurag Kashyap’s movie was considered too dark to be released in India. The movie faced a stay order from The Bombay High Court because the 1993 Bombay blasts case and remained slated-to-release until the trial got over.
8. Parzania (2005)
Parzania cut open the wounds of Gujarat’s scarred past, and received backlash and appreciation in equal amounts. The film was based on a superb plot which revolved around a boy called Azhar who goes missing during the Gujarat riots in the year 2002. Even though the film won a National Award, its cinematic excellence was not considered enough for political parties to let it screen in Gujarat, where it was fiercely banned.
9. Sins (2005)
Sins is an erotic journey of a Kerala priest who falls for the charms of a woman and gets sexually involved with her. Filled with obsession, lust and his struggles with the norms of the society he lived in, Sins did not go down well with with the Catholics. They thought the film projected Catholicism in a very immoral light. The Censor Board too, had issues with the nude scenes in the film and hence the movie did not see the light of the day.
10. Unfreedom (2015)
The most recent one to join this long list of banned movies in India, Unfreedom is a modern-day thriller which talks about a lesbian love story entangled within an Islamic terrorism-related angle. Bringing together two ‘taboos’ in one package, the Censor Board could not digest the nudity and the lovemaking scenes between the two protagonists. Reports also suggest that the movie was accused of “igniting unnatural passions” and hence was denied release in India, except for a few states.
11. Gandu (2010)
Gandu is a 2010 black-and-white Indian film, in the Bengali language, directed by Q who has described the film as a “rap musical”. It features Anubrata, Joyraj, Kamalika, Silajit, and Rii in the lead roles. The film’s music is by the alternative rock band Five Little Indians. Gandu previewed at Yale University before making its international premiere on October 29, 2010 at the 2010 South Asian International Film Festival in New York City. Gandu was an official selection at the 2011 Berlin International Film Festival and was also screened at the Slamdance Film Festival.
12. Water (2005)
Water, is a 2005 Canadian film written and directed by Deepa Mehta, with screenplay by Anurag Kashyap. It is set in 1938 and explores the lives of widows at an ashram in Varanasi, India. The film is also the third and final instalment of Mehta’s Elements trilogy. It was preceded by Fire (1996) and Earth (1998). Author Bapsi Sidhwa wrote the 2006 novel based upon the film, Water: A Novel, published by Milkweed Press. Sidhwa’s earlier novel, Cracking India was the basis for Earth, the second film in the trilogy. Water is a dark introspect into the tales of rural Indian widows in the 1940s and covers controversial subjects such as misogyny and ostracism. The film premiered at the 2005 Toronto International Film Festival, where it was honoured with the Opening Night Gala, and was released across Canada in November of that year. It was first released in India on 9 March 2007.
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