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Saturday, 6 July, 2002, 07:47 GMT 08:47 UK
Indian censors submit to porn
Indian cinema
The cinemas would be heavily taxed
India's film censors have decided to screen pornographic films in dedicated cinemas to try to control the huge popularity of adult films in the country. The BBC's Suniti Singh looks at their decision.

It was rather strange that the idea to screen pornographic films in special theatres in India came from the censor board itself.

The chairman of the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC), Vijay Anand, said: "The business of sex films is thriving in India because there is a demand for such films."

"Since we are unable to control it, we might as well try to regulate it."

The screening of pornographic films is currently illegal in India, but virtually every city has theatres which do so.

Mostly in morning shows, the theatres circumvent the censor rules by re-inserting deleted scenes and bribing the local police.

They also allow people who are under-age to see the films.

The censor board has even hired private detectives to crack down on such theatres, but is left in frustration.

Indian cinema
Unauthorised films are screened in the morning shows
An onslaught of sex films reaching people's home via satellite and cable television has not left much choice for the censor board.

Confused

The CBFC has always tried to act as the custodian of Indian morality, causing constant public conflict with film-makers.

Many feel the board's decisions have often reflected confused standards.

Titillating dance movements, pointless rape scenes and obscene double entendres are passed without a hitch. But showing sex as a progression of love and relationship is an absolute no.

Even a kiss between consenting adults is not welcome.

Mahesh Bhatt was refused a certificate for his film Zakhm, on grounds that it could provoke communal disharmony.

The film later won the award for best feature on national integration from the Indian Government.

Director Jagmohan Mundhra's film Bawandar tried to bring to life the true story of an illiterate social worker of Rajasthan, who was raped three times but did not give up her conviction to fight for the truth.

The censor board considered the realistic portrayal of her plight obscene.

Indian cinema
Many theatres flout the censor's age standards
And it objected to the name of Nagesh Kukunoor's Hyderabad Blues - because it found the word "blue" misleading.

Perturbed by the constant censorship troubles over his films, actor and director Dev Anand went to the extent of making a film to express his discontent - aptly named Censor.

Renowned film director Shekhar Kapoor got into a bitter battle with the censor board over the cuts ordered for his Oscar-nominated film, Elizabeth.

In an open letter to the then censor chairperson, Asha Parekh, he called the board "ignorant, irresponsible, arrogant and arbitrary".

Controversial

Is India ready for the radical step of screening pornographic films in dedicated cinemas?

That is the debate raging in the country ever since the censor board chief Vijay Anand first mooted the idea.

Veteran actress and member of parliament, Vjyanthimala Bali, strongly criticises the proposal, saying: "We are not Americans."

On the other hand, liberals like director Mahesh Bhatt have welcomed this move.

But the surprise comes from the board itself. Former director Asha Parekh, who is known for her rigid ways, approves this but has doubts whether it can actually be implemented.

Bandit Queen
Despite international acclaim Bandit Queen could not escape the censor
"How will the board ensure that under-age people are not going to these proposed theatres and watching pornographic films?" she asks.

There is also the fear of a public outrage.

Deepa Mehta's film Fire - which showed a homosexual relationship between two women - managed to avoid the censors' scissors but it was a different story when it opened to the public.

Political and women's groups, along with other members of the public, disrupted screenings.

However, Vijay Anand seems determined to present his proposal before the information and broadcasting ministry within two months.

"I am prepared for all that comes," he says.

See also:

26 Jun 02 | Entertainment
10 Jun 02 | Entertainment
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