But that got me thinking: how conservative is India? Well, according to the statistics, from this report “Freedom in the World” by Freedom House (never heard of them before), on a scale of 1 to 7, where 1 is most free and 7 is least, India is a 2. Now I find that surprising when it comes to movies, but I can understand, because we’re certainly not Iran. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Censorship_in_India#Film
But, I’m getting ahead of myself.
Right, so what’s the ratings system in India? Basically there’s three categories: U, which stands for Universal i.e. kids and adults can watch the movie, U/A, which is meant for kids and adults again, but adults have to cover their kids’ eyes in some scenes and A, which is meant only for adults. There’s a higher level, the X rated movies, which is like the NC-17 rating in the U.S. No one releases X movies a lot in India, at least where I live. These ratings are pretty simple right? WRONG!
In 2009, The Hangover was released. As you can guess, it was rated A by the CBFC. My dad decided to take the 14 year old me to this movie, even though it was only for adults (#SuperDad). Here’s what happened with the usher, after he saw me:
“Sir, this movie is only for people above 18 years.”
“Sir, is your son 18?”
“Yeah, he just turned 18…he finished his boards today, didn’t you, son?”
“Sir, please understand, we cannot allow underage kids into this movie.”
“No, you understand, I’ve driven a long way for this movie and you can’t just tell us that we can’t see the movie. I’m telling you he’s old enough to see it. He doesn’t have any valid ID, so just please let us watch the movie.”
And that was it. We went in and saw the funniest movie of the year. But 2 funny things happened during the movie:
1. During Heather Graham’s breastfeeding scene, the nudity was cut right off.
2. When the Wolfpack open the trunk of their Mercedes and find the naked Chinese man Chow, we never actually see Chow get out of the trunk and beat them up. So, they open the trunk and the next second later they end up on the ground with the shit kicked out of them.
P.S. I don’t think they showed all the photos at the end of the movie.
Why is this important to me? Two reasons: One, the whole movie going experience is wasted. You pay to see a movie in its entirety, not some butchered up leftovers. Imagine going to the Louvre and you pay to see all the paintings, but you end up seeing only the non-nude ones. And you don’t understand the rest of the movie because you’ve lost your connection with it. Two, the cinema never took the pains of telling us that what we were seeing was an edited version. They deprived us of making a choice, whether we wanted to see an edited version or stay at home and wait for the DVD.
At this point, I want to introduce the paradox of the CBFC. Okay, so when they decide to rate something as “A”, they send a message out to audiences that this movie is for adults, and adults only. Now, since the movie is intended only for adults, why the fuck are they editing the movie??? Are Indian adults somewhat lacking in maturity as compared to American adults? Don’t Indian adults enjoy nudity as much as American adults? How the fuck are they different? But that’s not all. Once they rate it “A”, there’s no discrimination between children and adults. I went for The Hangover. I went for Drive Angry 3D (not my best movie experience). And no one stopped me. Why? Because theaters are more interested in selling tickets than the law. What’s the point of rating something “A” when everyone can fucking see it?
Here’s what I want them to do: stop fucking films up. And once you do that, enforce stricter measures to ensure kids don’t end up watching those movies. I know you want to protect them from the scourge of cussing, nudity, sex and violence. But we’ve got something like the Internet. If India doesn’t censor pornography, why are they censoring the nudity in movies? Here’s another idea: scrap the current ratings system together and come up with something like UK’s rating system: use ages as a benchmark for each movie. Because right now, the bifurcation between U/A and A is so fuzzy because you censor everything in an “A” movie and make it U/A. They’ve become basically the same.
Another concern of mine with regards to this issue is that if we as a society want to evolve and grow as a society, if we want to be more liberal, then it will require less censorship in public places. Why is it important for us to be more liberal? Because the whole world is becoming more liberal and we’re still very conservative. What’s going to happen if in 50 years, we’re still the same and they’ve left us behind? We lose our connection to everyone else. I doubt that something as extreme will happen, given that we have liberal ideas shared in the Internet, but why not encourage less censorship of movies?
I don’t know how we can change the CBFC, except if I decide to run for political office, somehow end up getting elected and scrap the whole organization (imagining that is making me grin right now). And if the CBFC is anything like the MPAA, or worse (with just old thathas and pattis instead of a range of parents), then nothing will change. What I want is to step in a movie theater when I’m 18 and know that what I’m seeing is the whole movie. That’s all I want.