Chauranga, produced by Onir and Sanjay Suri, and directed by Bikas Ranjan Mishra, has run into trouble, with the Censor Board asking the filmmakers to delete two vital scenes from the film. The filmmakers have been asked to remove a love-making sequence between Sanjay Suri and Tannishtha Chatterjee, as they feel the scene is derogatory to women. Another crucial scene involving a Dalit boy being pushed into a well has also been asked to be deleted.
The film is based on the story of a high-caste zamindar from Jharkhand and the love-making scene between Sanjay and Tannishtha, who works in his home, is a very vital part of the film. Upset with the development, Onir says, “Every scene is crucial for a film as it contributes to the narrative, otherwise it should not be there. Having said that, I feel the sequence of the boy being pushed into the well being objectionable is ridiculous as we see much more of gender/caste/religious violence on screen even in UA films. And here, we had no shots of the boy in the water. It is all suggested and not graphic. The act was very important as it depicts caste violence which is so prevalent in our society and how even children are not spared. Similarly, the act of love-making in the film was not to sensationalise, but to explain power politics.”
When asked him if he feels that the Censor Board is being pointlessly harsh, he adds, “I think the film certification board needs a total fresh approach to certification. Introducing grading is long overdue. Also, they need to accept that in the day of internet/TV and print, this form of censorship is discrimination towards the film industry. We have a huge adult population and should have the right to see adult films and they should also be shown by satellite channels post 11 pm. And yes, we seem to be moving backwards in terms of what is acceptable. About the scenes, we are discussing it with the director Bikas Mishra. It is his baby and we will let him make the final call.”
Verdict from Board has left the filmmaker fuming and very irritated. “One seems to be subconsciously censoring one’s mind. The creative process is getting hampered as this affects the economics of the film. I am angry when I see people get away with what is actually questionable. While the Board is apparently strict with films like Chauranga, they let others with more adult/controversial scenes. I suppose it has to do with sensibility. There are people who understand that the way many “item numbers” depict women need to be questioned in terms of what it tells a largely male chauvinistic society is okay and others think “just harmless entertainment”. I wondered why would I AM gets certified ‘A’ and Bombay Talkies ‘UA’. The reason for this dialogue and the constant discussion is a hope for change. The film industry as a whole, and not just me, want the certification process revamped,” says Onir.
When contacted, director Bikas says, “Chauranga was prompted by a news story. The film is my understanding of the village life where a gruesome act of killing is possible in the name of preserving the sanctity of caste system. It’s a fictional re-telling of the actual incident set in a real village where I grew up and which I was part of.”
Chauranga is the story of a smitten young boy, Santu, who faced death for writing a love letter to a girl belonging to an upper caste in a remote village, which is steeped in caste hierarchy, domination and debauchery. Unaware of the consequences, Santu nurtures defiance and infatuation. The film has won the Best Indian Film award at MAMI last year and also the Grand Jury prize at Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles IFFLA and is slated to release on January 8, 2016