Roshmila Bhattacharya (MUMBAI MIRROR; February 27, 2017)

Mirror (February 23) had earlier broken the news that Prakash Jha's new production, Lipstick Under My Burkha, directed by Alankrita Shrivastava, was refused a censor certificate by the Censor Board of Film Certification's (CBFC) Examining and Revising Committees, the latter presided over by Chairperson Pahlaj Nihalani himself, on the grounds that "the story is lady oriented, their fantasy above life". Also, there are "contanious sexual scenes, abusive words, audio pornography and a bit sensitive touch about one particular section of society, hence film refused under guidelines 1(a), 2(vii), 2(ix), 2(x), 2(xi), 2(xii) and 3(i)."

While the film industry, including filmmakers Karan Johar and Farhan Akhtar, reacted with outrage, Nihalani is openly defiant, asserting that "people in the media and on the social media don't know certification process and the CBFC will not work according to them". He adds, "The CBFC is a part of the government, the responsibility of which is not only limited to issuing certificates to the films but also to preserve the culture and tradition of the country. CBFC is needed so that right kind of films are exhibited in public. The status quo will be maintained till the time I am here. We will follow the guidelines. I thank my staff members and officials who are sincerely and honestly complying with government rules" Jha responds to this saying that while he doesn't want to sit in on judgement, he believes the media is us, our conscience. "Achcha bura job hi ho, media bolti toh hai while you (Nihalani) don't want to listen to anyone and that makes you an autocrat," he argues.

He goes on to point out that nowhere in the censor guidelines is it mentioned that it needs to preserve our culture."So I don't understand why the Chairman has taken this responsibility on himself and what qualifies him for it. Is he the only one who knows Indian culture ? Are we all uncultured people," he grouses.

The National Award-winning filmmaker, who has been at the receiving end of the Censor's wrath, with his previous films too, including Raajneeti, Aarakshan, Chakravyuh and Jai Gangaajal having to go to the Film Certification Appellate Tribunal (FCAT) or the Court to be cleared, reiterates the growing demand for censorship to make way for classification. "If you feel a film is not fit for universal viewing, classify it as 'A' or `UA' or create more classifications with the guidelines demarcated. If you give authority to any individual or a set of people to determine the sensibilities and morality of our society, their interpretations will differ. No one has questioned Pahlaj on the sensibilities in his films, have they?" he asks.

Many have pointed out that while films with blatant sexual content like Great Grand Masti and Kyaa Super Kool Hain Hum have been cleared with cuts, Lipstick Under My Burkha has been deemed unfit for public viewing. Jha reasons that those films projected male fantasies which are permissible. "It's okay for men to peek under a woman's skirt or use lewd, double-meaning words, but few have dared to reflect on a woman's fantasies or talk about her suffocation and they call such a story 'lady oriented'. What kind of a definition is that? It's laughable, our custodians need to be educated themselves," he says, and despite the censor backlash remains positive. "Nothing can stop my film. Once it's seen by clear, unbiased minds, there will be no problem" he avers.