If not censor board but Ramesh Sippy, the director had his way, the 1975 classic Sholay would have had a climax where no police officer comes to the rescue of the dacoit Gabbar; where Thakur could take his revenge on his own. But that was not to be. So, Sholay took a different trail in history up till early 90's when the director's cut came out, revealing two different climax scenes. Whatever the reasons: emergency, or the state's and censors' belief that a violent climax would instigate people to take up law in their hands; several other films in cinemas history took to a path those were not set out for. Violence in Indian cinema and profanities used in it, dominated the day at the 100 years celebration of Indian Cinema at Siri fort Auditorium, on Friday.
An eminent group of panelists including renowned directors, Vishal Bhardwaj and Ramesh Sippy graced the occasion with their presence. They took to a discourse on On Screen violence and the Culture of Cuss Words. Setting the tone for the discussion, K.Hariharan, the director of LV Prasad Film and TV academy in Chennai, presided over a workshop on the said subject in the morning session and showcased the uncut scenes of a number of Indian movies.
The interaction was simmering with the audiences' outrage. Complaints kept pouring out at the directors', from right left and centre for the use of violence and expletives in cinema. What started off as an accusatory affair, took a turn in between, with takes from censor board executives and directors' on issues that make violence imperative in cinema. Pankaja Thakur, the Chief Executive Officer of Central Board of Film Certification, questioned Vishal on introducing MCBC, the expletives in Omkara. To this Vishal nonchalantly answered that he only mainstreamed those words. He made the Bollywood heroes use them, but theatre artists at NSD do it all the time. And nobody is to blame because he comes from a Delhi where a father calls out his son saying, ‘Oye Kaminey! Come here.’ Viewers need to understand the meanings associated with words and not take them on face value. Vishal who confesses that the movie Bandit Queen is his bible, went onto share an anecdote. During the release of Kaminey, the censor board asked him, 'What kind of title was Kaminey?'. Smiling profusely he said, thankfully to his rescue, Gulzar wrote the title track ‘Meri aarzoo kaminey, Meri dost bhi Kaminey’ for the film, explaining the subtext associated with the word. Ramesh Sippy chipped in saying, in an age where a telephone company sells its chip with a tagline 'Har ek dost kamina hota he', and all of us lap it up; it's too much to indict filmakers with the charge.
Hariharan gave another spin to the tale, he asked the audience if they had read a poem - 'Baba black sheep have you ay wool'. And ofcourse all of us by heart the rhyme as children. But not all of us know that it has racist subtext. Perhaps, cinema has come of age and now demands better understanding. The discussion swayed to this juncture where directors pointed that audience also need to understand the aesthetics of craft and not hold on to certain words. For now, filmmakers want better comprehension of their art, believing that they have due share of responsibility in reflecting the contemporary state of society.