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Latest James Bond film confronted with the Indian censor

New Dehli, Brussels, November 24th, 2015 (Indian Times/Himanshi Dhawan/SIGNIS). The makers of James Bond have all the interest to have an access to a (paying) audience as big as possible. The first James Bond films in the 1960’s were seen by most Catholics as an attack on the morality of the youth, but things changed in fifty years.

L’Osservatore Romano published in 2012 no less than five pieces about the Bond films, to mark the 50th anniversary of 007’s cinematic exploits. The headlines were both breathless and comical: "New James Bond film gets five-star Vatican blessing" and "The Pope ’Approves’ Of New Bond Flick, Skyfall (Despite all that sex and alcohol)". In Skyfall (2012) there is a strong indication about the Catholic heritage of Bond’s family. And isn’t Bond fighting evil in the world? But Bonds’ behaviour is not appreciated everywhere.

In some countries as India, where kissing in films, even in the Bollywood film industry, is not really done, the latest James bond caused troubles. The India Times reported on how the government censor board reacted to it but curiously, it also gives its own view on the matter.

The Indian Times wrote that the Indian Censor Board seemed to have succeeded where the British Intelligence failed — reining in the legendary sex life of UK’s most famous fictional spy. The Board has slashed kissing scenes between James Bond and his girls, considering the length of the pecks "too excessive", in the latest spy flick, Spectre. The film has received a U/A certificate. Reports said the film received four cuts which included kisses between Daniel Craig and his co-stars, Monica Belluci and Lea Seydoux. Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) chief Pahlaj Nihalani was unavailable for comment. But sources close to him said the kissing content was reduced because the certification was U/A which allowed for the film to be screened to a wider theatrical audience and on TV. "We have to be careful with films that get U/A certificate because they can be shown on TV and to all audiences following parental guidance. The producers have accepted the cuts," the source said. Censor Board sources also said that the producers had asked for the edits.

However, social media had a field day with #SanskariJamesBond and #Censor Board trending on twitter. The move comes just days after Nihalani released a video in praise of PM Modi. Board member Ashoke Pandit tweeted his disapproval of the way in which the movie was cleared and described it as a "mockery of the freedom of the filmmaker" and slammed Nihalani for behaving as an official spokesperson for the BJP. He tweeted, "Pahlaj Nihalani has always functioned on his own accord and I don’t subscribe to his curtailing of creative rights....

Spectre is an internationally applauded film, but again Pahalaj Nihalani messes it up by shading it with his own thought process. Nihalani’s action should not be a reflection of my choices. I feel it’s a mockery of the freedom of a filmmaker...Nihalani as chairman of the censor Board can’t behave like an official spokesperson of a political party." He added, "Just because I didn’t succumb to Nihalani’s likes and dislikes, I’ve never been called to see a film in the revising committee."

The Twiteratti were merciless towards the Board. "Censor Board is clear. Make in India? Good, good. Make out in India? Never," tweeted Ramesh Srivats while director Shirish Kunder said, "James Bond’s women must be feeling so safe now that our Censor Board is there to protect their izzat and aabroo from that creep." The film directed by Sam Mendes also stars Christopher Waltz and Naomi Harris. The Board also asked for profanities to be removed.

Indian Times View

It is quite ridiculous that in this day and age the censors should be cutting out or abbreviating something like a kissing scene from a film. In its defence, the censor board may say that such cuts are quite common, but that is not the point. Today’s India is a long way removed from the days when two flowers being blown together in the breeze would have to suffice as a metaphor for kissing on screen. The censor board needs to keep in tune with modern Indian sensibilities. It can, of course, decide whether a film is fit for universal viewing or should be restricted to adult audiences, but cuts should be resorted to only where something is incendiary and liable to threaten public order or where it transcends reasonable limits of vulgarity or violence.

SIGNIS

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