March 12, 2015 / 11:19 AM / 4 years ago

Rifts within India's movie censor panel spill into the open

MUMBAI (Reuters) - A prominent member of India’s government censors took to social media on Thursday to rail against its chairman, exposing rifts within a censorship panel that has thwarted the theatrical release of films such as Hollywood hit “Fifty Shades of Grey”.

A film poster for "Fifty Shades of Grey" is pictured at Regal Theater in Los Angeles, California, February 12, 2015. REUTERS/Jonathan Alcorn

Ashoke Pandit, a Bollywood film-maker, accused censor chief Pahlaj Nihalani of treating India’s Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) like his personal fiefdom.

“Films after films are becoming innocent victims of his mindless tyranny,” Pandit wrote on his Facebook page.

“His ridiculous diktats and autocratic functioning has made CBFC a laughing stock.”

In his post, Pandit cited “NH10”, a Bollywood thriller about a young couple attacked by a gang while traveling on a highway.

The film, originally blocked by censors, opens in cinemas on Friday after its makers were asked to make nine cuts.

“The cuts have been levied in spite of the film-maker agreeing to an adult certificate,” Pandit said, blaming Nihalani for taking the decision despite objections from panel members.

Nihalani was not available for comment.

Actress Anushka Sharma, the producer of “NH10”, said the censor board lacked compassion for film-makers. At one point, Sharma was asked to reduce violence in her film by 30 percent.

“What does that mean [and] how do you do that?” she told Reuters in an interview. “It’s been very taxing for all of us.”

India’s censors have received much criticism in recent months. Leela Samson, who served several years as board chairman, quit in January after accusing the federal government of interfering in board decisions.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government then unveiled a new-look censor board headed by Nihalani, who has since issued guidelines saying films should not contain profanity.

In the case of a new Bollywood movie “Dum Laga Ke Haisha” (Give It All You’ve Got), the censor board asked that the word “lesbian” be purged from the film’s dialogue.

“The biggest victim of his warped world view [are] the Hollywood films,” Pandit wrote in his post.

Last week, government censors blocked the big-screen adaptation of erotic novel “Fifty Shades of Grey” from Indian cinemas, a decision most had anticipated in the largely conservative country.

Nandini Sardesai, who’s been on the censor panel for six years, said there was “complete fear psychosis” on the board.

“He (Nihalani) told me that I was a liberal who allowed too many things,” she told Reuters.

Writing by Tony Tharakan; Editing by Robert Birsel

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