Are we liberal enough for sex on screen?

If CBFC chief Leela Samson does push for it, the self-appointed moral guardians will emerge from the woodwork like termites, forgetting that we are from the land of the Kama Sutra and Khajuraho

It is indeed refreshing to see that Leela Samson, the recently appointed Chair of the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC), popularly known as the Censor Board, is looking at new methods of film classification. Now, there was a furore in the film world when Samson was appointed, as she is best known for being a dancer and therefore not a film person. What many people don’t know is that several prominent film people were offered the job, but they all declined the poisoned chalice/hot potato, call it what you will. Now, these same people are turning around and saying that Samson is not qualified. You know what? All those naysayers can just put it where the monkey puts the nuts. If they didn’t have the guts to take the job, they have no right to complain. But complain they will, because that is the nature of us Indians, filmi or not.

The current classification system is childishly simple. According to CBFC guidelines, there is ‘U’ for unrestricted public exhibition; ‘U/A’ that is U “with a word of caution that parental discretion required for children below 12 years”; ‘A’ that is restricted to adults; and ‘S’ that is restricted to “any special class of persons”. The S is the most curious of the lot. What is a special class of person and who belongs there? If say, Cineswami declares that she or he is a sex addict and there are thousands more in the same boat, will the CBFC slot us in the S or Sex class and give us unrestricted access to hardcore porn in the cinemas so that we don’t vent our frustrations in the form or sexual crime and violence? Obviously that is an extreme way to look at it. But if the CBFC and Samson were in their infinite wisdom to treat Indian adults as mature individuals who know how to make their own choices, perhaps the way could be paved for more challenging adult content like say Q’s masterpiece Gandu that has full on frontal sex, nudity and masturbation, but is a powerful and angry film that provokes rather than titillates. Gandu is getting festival raves abroad but we in democratic India have to wait for a pirate DVD or private screening or shell out the big bucks to go to Berlin and watch it, as I did.

Sadly, even if Samson does push through a more liberal classification regime, the self-appointed moral guardians will emerge from the woodwork like termites and shout themselves hoarse about declining value systems, forgetting that we are from the land of the Kama Sutra and Khajuraho that are some of the most graphic sexual representations known to mankind. But no, that was ancient India and the modern India is too prim and proper to be able to consume sex on screen by choice – the same India where the population is north of 1.2 billion by a miraculous process of Immaculate Conception it seems. Go on CBFC, if the man on the street that doesn’t have access to DVDs or the Internet wants to go into a 5-rupee tent cinema to get his jollies, don’t stop it. Make it legal. And in the process make some challenging films available to view legally and uncensored in the cinemas.


Leela Samson: When the nation is mature, censorship will not be necessary