Back in 1996 when Karisma Kapoor and Aamir Khan went ahead to smooch one another in Raja Hindustani, there were mixed reactions from audiences. Some deemed it scandalous and others realized that times were clearly changing -it was the beginning of a new era. Salaam Namaste, Neil n Nikki, Bachna Ae Haseeno, Dhoom 2, Raja Hindustani, Hum Tum, Jab We Met, Murder. All of the listed films have one scene in common; a kissing scene. And now in 2009, we have come full circle. While we have the likes of Kambakkht Ishq which houses an Akshay Kumar-Kareena Kapoor kiss, we also have Indie Documentary Filmmaker Tanmay Agarwal whose upcoming venture; Chal Chaliye is stuck at the Censors because of two kissing scenes in the film.
According to the director, Chal Chaliye is a love story that requires the dual kissing scenes, “Chal Chaliye is a short fiction drama about a boy who approaches a girl he has known from childhood for her hand. The trouble is that she is due to marry someone else in two weeks time. The film explores a day spent by them together figuring out this position.” Additionally, Agarwal explains the context and situation of the kiss and its essentialness within the script of the film, “In the context that the kiss appears it tells of the suddenness of the moment in which the girl is carried away, she is willing yet not quite. It pauses where she reflects internally and then they break away because she is still reluctant and the moment is lost for both the boy and the girl. In doing this act the girl reveals the secret in her heart that she really does love the boy though she has been denying it thus far. It is a turning point in the film.”
After the film was sent into the board for its usual review, the director received a letter from the Central Board of Film Censor stating: “The presentation of the film is not suitable for children below 12 years require parental guidance. Hence the Examining Committee unanimously recommended for grant of ‘UA’ Certificate to the film subject to the following cuts: Delete the visuals of kissing scenes wherever it occurs.”
Agarwal defends the scenes but claiming that they have been shot tastefully, “…the two kissing shots in question, one is a silhouette while the other is a close up of the faces of the actors with no visual of petting, cuddling, stroking etc. if that is objectionable.” After much debate with the Regional Officer in Mumbai and even a letter to the Chairperson, Sharmila Tagore, the situation remains unresolved. In fact Agarwal was honest enough to admit that at the meeting with the Regional Officer, arguing “…the point around the merits of the shots… It just did not occur to me that kissing was now extremely commonplace in Indian films. I guess it’s a sign of age when the best one can think of is Sagar when it comes to a kiss in Indian films. Thereafter I did a systematic study of kisses in Indian films and the list turned out to be endless. A shortened list of more than a dozen films was presented to the Regional Officer, CBFC as well as Chairperson, CBFC in my correspondence.”
When questioned about the reason of this discrimination towards him, Agarwal had no qualms in admitting that it was because he did not have any pull in the industry, “Because I am a small fry in a big pond. Why else? I have no clout. I am a fringe, independent filmmaker who in all probability would have bit their line and accepted the cuts.” He also pointed out that while “a kiss is just a kiss,” Documentary Filmmakers are constantly finding themselves in murky waters when it comes to their films and are faced with “extreme scrutiny by the censors.”
Tanmay Agarwal openly maintains that he has two options: “One to follow the path set by CBFC that enforces me to run from pillar to post. Seek whatever remedy they offer within the present inadequate rules and live happily ever after feeling a little abused, a little spent. Second to force CBFC to not only right the wrong that they did in the first place but right it for all times to come and for everybody and then live happily ever after a little calm in my little gains.” He will choose the latter.
He is looking for your help too in the matter. For starters you can take a quick read at his appeal he has written and forward it to all for more awareness, Additionally, visit the film’s site, ChalChaliye.com. Add your comments and even email the director with your thoughts and opinions. You can even write to the Honorable Minister of Information and Broadcasting, Smt. Ambika Soni directly at firstname.lastname@example.org for her intervention in the case. Forward a copy to the Tanmay so he can take the matter forward. Contribute to the cause by buying the DVDs from the site and lastly, become a fan of the film page on chalchaliye.com, Facebook, Twitter, Orkut or Digg.
One can’t help but wonder, do you need to be a big budget Bollywood film for the Censor Board to look the other way when dealing with kisses? You decide.
Here is a look at one of the kisses that the censor board wants removed!