7 Shades Of Censorship: India Gets Ban Happy

Editor, U.S. ; Dallas, Texas (@HatefulJosh)
It's been a crazy month in India, where the newly ordained Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC), among other organizations, has been banning "offensive" material and acts left and right.

You may recall the CBFC kerfuffle surrounding Saint Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh Ji Insan's MSG: Messenger of God. The film was initially denied certification by the CBFC, but following the ban's lifting, the members of that board left en masse, only to be replaced by an even more restrictive group of government appointed Hindu moralist hardliners. As a result, the board has become so restrictive that even Bollywood's old guard are stepping up to ask why. Here's a brief rundown of recent events that have been giving progressive Indians reason to cringe over the last ten days.

The silly little film that started it all.

We've been covering MSG since it first burst into the news, and all of the ups and downs have been enough to make one's head spin. The gist of the matter is that the film was initially banned because the CBFC found it to have no artistic merit and observed that its only purpose was to advertise for its maker's cult. The film was denied certification initially.

Upon appeal, the official review board decided to grant it a certificate with a few minor edits. This outraged CBFC head Leela Samson so much that she stepped down, taking the entire board with her on the way out the door. When the new, more conservative, government stepped in to replace the board, they went hardline and installed a team of historically touchy film veterans who would go on to make more news in 30 days than most censor boards make in their entire tenures.

As I previously reported:

"The CBFC's ban was met with a challenge by the filmmakers, after which it was denied a certificate a second time. Following that challenge, the filmmakers took their challenge to the FCAT, who today came out with the plan that MSG would make a few voluntary cuts, no specifics on those yet, and be in cinema halls by next weekend, January 23rd. The news infuriated CBFC chairperson Leela Samson, who has accused the government of meddling in CBFC affairs. Samson tendered her resignation when the news went public, and it is expected that several CBFC members will follow her out the door."

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