Wednesday, 20 April 2016

Dude! Where’s My Movie?

Since the time my memory serves me, I remember having led a life of discipline. Sadly, most of the times though, the discipline was of an enforced nature – much to my displeasure and against my consent. Parents, grandparents, aunts, relatives, school teachers – they all took turns in laying down specific instructions every now and then. “Are you stupid? Don’t do that!” “Hey! Who told you that you could talk that way?” “Don’t go there!” “Don’t say that! Bad boys talk that way.” “Don’t look at it. Close your eyes!” Phew! I was young, naive and juvenile and maybe they needed to treat me that way for my own well-being. Somewhere in the back of my mind, I am grateful to them for all that. Today though, I am a grown man, well past my adolescence and responsible for whatever I do. I consider myself mature enough to know what I want to see or not see what I want to learn or not learn. Do I still need a ruling stick to hover over me all the time? Well, I don’t think so.

In this daily marathon, that life has come to be, I believe most of us would need some entertainment by the end of the day. After an entire day of work, having heard from my manager a millionth time that I am not working to my full potential and that I need to put extra efforts, despite me clocking more than 12 hours a day, I don’t think I would opt to see weeping housewives or lame reality shows where they would shout at each other on top of their voices with no reason whatsoever. The music channels would be playing the same song that they were playing in the morning and every single day for the past one month for that matter. The news would be showing how a cow landed a man in trouble or how aliens are planning to abduct Himesh Reshammiya. The Bollywood movie channels would be airing a movie that was entertaining some 10 years ago, but looks boring today. I do not intend to disrespect the Indian media industry, but that’s the way it is. So at this point, I think that it’s quite obvious that I would rather not opt to watch all that. Other choices would be the peculiar Alan Harper of Two and A Half Men, or the portrayed ingenious of Sheldon Lee Cooper in The Big Bang Theory, or even a certain eternally confused Ted Mosby and a resourceful Barney Stinson of How I Met Your Mother. They would make us smile and even break into hysterical laughter at times. Then there would be the channels airing Hollywood flicks. Romantic comedy, Sex Comedy, intense thriller/suspense, horror – I have my options, or so I think.

A few things at times do not make any sense to me – at all. An angry girl’s argument, the Caste system, discrimination based on religion, arranged marriage, the Annual Budget. Off late, the Higgs boson as well. Oh! I almost forgot, there are two more – the Central Board of Film Certification and the Indian Broadcasting Foundation! While surfing channels, I see that HBO is airing the movie – Final Destination. Having nothing else to do, I start watching that. For those who don’t know, the movie is about some exciting scenes and people dying in very unusual ways. Now I am watching it for the scenes and just when the first accident is about to happen, I get excited and watch on. At that very moment, I exclaim, “What the Fuck!” No, it was not out of excitement for having watched the scene, but it was more out of disgust. The scenes were deleted and the movie skipped forward. At that very moment, a message flashed at the bottom of the screen indicating that IBF was monitoring the content on air and that we could complain if we’d seen something discomforting on that channel. I punched the wall beside me out of frustration. I thought to myself, I didn’t appoint you to be my nanny, what gives you the right to monitor what’s on air and what’s not? Even in the regular soaps, like Two and A Half Men and How I Met Your Mother, there would be times when the funny punches would have a word or two – like Fuck or Ass, deemed profane by IBF and they would be muted, or even scenes deleted or blurred at times. TV series like Californication or Spartacus, have a significant amount of adult content and scenes portraying violence. The quality of the content though could very well be figured out by the high ratings that these have on IMDB from global audience. But when on air in our country, thanks to the IBF, they would be stripped off a lot of content, thus totally diminishing the entertainment value. I clench my fists and swallow the bitter pill as there was nothing much I could do. Now this one time, the movie The Dark Knight was airing on TV. We all know what the reputation of the movie is. I could watch the movie a hundred times over and so, when it was airing on TV, I was watching hopelessly. There is a character in the movie, Harvey Dent – Two Face. The people behind the movie did an amazing work with the make-up/animation and his face was half-burnt exposing the skull completely. Now, just when the Joker enters a hospital to have a little chat with him, half my TV screen goes black. I get somewhat tensed thinking that there was something wrong with my TV. It takes me a while to realize that, it was in fact IBF who did not want me to see the disrupted face of Harvey Dent and hence the screen was darkened whenever he was on screen. Absolute bullshit!

The American Pie, The American Pie 2 and The American Wedding – a few very good movies. Yes, the genre would be Sex Comedy, but brilliant comedy nonetheless. When I watched it on DVD, it made me laugh so hard that my cheeks hurt. But thanks to the IBF again, you dare not watch the movie on a movie channel in India. Because the movie would be so brutally ravished after the scene deletion and the dialogue muting, that it would be pointless to watch it – Stiffler would be speaking more in beeps than words. There is more. If you have watched the movies – The Ring and The Ring 2, you would know the value that the deformed faces add to the movie. On air, those scenes were deleted. Seriously, why even air a Horror movie without the Horror scenes! Makes no sense to me. An epic saga of stupidity is on display here and we people are helpless about it. I would like to think that the IBF consists of a bunch of kids. I wonder what gives them the power or the right or even the time or money for the job they are doing. How does our Govt. even justify their existence? There was an episode in Californication, where Hank Moody gets trapped in his apartment with a stripper, and his daughter’s teachers and everybody concerned barge in all at once. That scene was absolutely hilarious, but we would not be allowed to watch that because there was a nude girl in the scene. IBF, thank you again! Alright, our Govt. feels that it has some sort of Moral responsibility towards us citizens to shield us from media content that promotes “Western Culture” as they call it. I don’t feel that there is a need for any such veil and that it is nonsense. To protect kids at home, they have their mothers. When I was a kid, thankfully I did not have to experience such nuisance. There was unrestricted airing of content on channels and my parents did a decent job on deciding what should I watch and what I should not. But at least, I could watch an entire item number kind of song on a music channel, without any scene deleted or words in the lyrics muted or beeped. As far as the youth is concerned, they would watch what they want to watch anyway.

I’d like to think that this IBF is a result of a bunch of people refusing to have a broad mind. If there is a funny scene which has a certain amount of nudity in it, I would watch that for the funny nature of it and not the nudity on display, because if I wanted to watch nudity, I’d rather watch pornography – which, thanks to the internet, is readily accessible today. If the IBF just has to exist, then it would help the nation, if they started monitoring the news section of the media and other programs on air – questioning their credibility. Because, I am okay with a music channel airing Chikni Chameli or Sheila ki Jawani and even my kid watching it, but I definitely am not okay with a NEWS channel telling me that a cat was trapped on a balcony or a cow has superpowers. No thanks!

Now a look at the CBFC. Motion pictures are considered to be a Director’s vision. The director has to put in a lot of thought into directing a movie. A good movie would touch you, make you think, make you laugh or cry. Or at times, just simply entertain you. Now at times there would be a certain degree of adult content in some movies. But that in most cases would be relevant to the plot of the movie. Let’s take a movie of recent times – The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. The character of Lisbeth Salander played by Rooney Mara in the movie had a rather strong build up. There were some adult scenes in the movie, which if you ask me were justified by the plot. Once again, if the director wanted to portray nudity itself, he’d rather go direct porn movies, isn’t it? The movie had a strong background. Based on a bestseller novel, and already turned into a Swedish Motion picture, the anticipation surrounding the movie was high. But, our Indian Censor Board was not comfortable with the content of the movie and asked the makers to remove scenes before releasing it in India. They refused, and the movie was not released in India. I had to watch it later on a DVD and I regretted having missed the chance to experience the intensity and the amazing background score on a big screen. Thank you CBFC! People are talking of India moving ahead and all that. But, looking at all this, where people are just hesitant towards having a broad mindset, I have my doubts. I think it’s about time they stopped all this drama. So is there something that could be done here? I think yes.

You categorize, we decide if we watch or not. The Motion Picture Association of America could be taken as an example. They categorize content, but they do not decide on behalf of the people without their consent about what they should watch and what they should not. Come to think of it, some movies are even released as unrated and the audience is responsible for watching such movies. Coming back to India, if the content is deemed fit for only a certain category of audience, then the movie theatres could screen the audience based on the rating the movie gets. If required, have more categories for broader classification to be more precise. Your job would be to only let the audience know what they are in for. Whether they watch it or not, leave it to them. As far as the IBF goes, well, yes there are certain scenes not fit for everybody. For example, there is a certain programme that covers happenstances like theft, rapes, burglary and deceit. The purpose of the same would be to create awareness about what’s happening in the society today. If I remember correctly, the programme had a tag line “chain se sona hai toh jaag jaiye!”. If I were a parent, I’d like my child to be educated about all that. So, why not have a rating for the content? Say whatever the channel is airing, it has some amount of nudity/violence/adult content. So, have a tag on the channel that flashes something like “Adult Content” or “Violent Content” while the show is on. If you think Horror movies are not for everyone, then the channel could have a tag flashing like, “Horror Content”. So, if I turn on the TV, and see a show which has such tags, I would switch if I wanted or needed to. That would definitely make more sense. So, IBF and CBFC, if you are reading this, please stop beeping and blurring and deleting content for the sake of sanity. It is just stupid if not anything else. If you must interfere because you feel obligated, please rate the content and let us decide. And if you must do things to feel important in this world, then please stop films like Agent Vinod and Piranhas 3DD from hitting the multiplexes. That would save us the torment.

P.S. This entry is also published on