Saturday, September 27, 2014

Censoring the Certificate

There is a thing that always shows up before we watch any movie. Its presence is so ubiquitous that we hardly ever notice it. But the thing is, if is it not there, we would not be able to watch any film. It is that important. I am talking about the Central Board Film Certificate. We see it in all films but have you ever wondered and looked at in detail at it? I always look at the certificate and there are some things which I have been wanting to know since ages as to what exactly do they mean. This week, I finally started doing research on the film certificate and discovered some new things, of which I had no idea. I became like Shashi of English Vinglish. And, it is befitting that Pankaja Thakur's moniker is similar to mine. 

In India, the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) lays down the guidelines to be followed for certifying films. The Board was called the Central Board of Film Censors before 1983. That is why on the certificate of films released before 1983, we see that name instead of the present day name. Actually, in 1983, a number of rules were changed including the addition of two new categories of film rating.  

Guide — 1975
Let us look at the film certificate of Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge, which is one of the clearest certificates, that I found—simple and clean. Notice the word "फीचर". The CBFC defines feature films as any fictionalized story film in 35 mm or other gauges or on other video formats. It further categorizes them as long films, shorts films, advertisement films, newsreels, and documentaries. A long film is a film with a length exceeding 2000 meters in 35 mm or corresponding length in other gauges. A short film means a film with a length up to 2000 meters in length in 35 mm or corresponding length in other gauges. As we know, length of a film is measured in meters. Going back to the word feature, it is because of this that when national film awards are announced, we see the terms, such as 'National Award for Best Hindi Feature Film'. 

Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge — 1995

Notice the words Part 1. The Part 1 of the certificate shows that the film has been certified by the CBFC with a particular rating. Also, the Board mentions that any film that is certified, has to attach the certificate always. Even film trailers have to show the certificate with them. That explains why we see these certificates in cinema halls when we watch trailers of new movies. There is another rule which I don't think anyone actually follows. The rule says that the certificate has to be shown for a minimum duration of 10 seconds. I did a quick check on some of the films. Most films on average show about 5-6 seconds. I did not come across a film (yet) that depicted it for 10 seconds. 

As I mentioned Part 1 of the certificate is about the ratings. Before 1983, there were only two categories of certificate — "U" (unrestricted public exhibition), and "A" (restricted to adult audiences), but two other categories were added in 1983 — "UA" (unrestricted public exhibition subject to parental guidance for children below the age of twelve) and "S" (restricted to specialized audiences, such as doctors or scientists). Yes, most of us are aware of them, but I was always curious to know what do the Hindi translations stand for, like "U" is actually written with "अ", and "A" is written with "व". Here are the translations: 

"U" — "अ"  अनिर्बन्धित सार्वजनिक प्रदर्षन
"A" — "व" वयस्क दर्षकों के लिए निर्बन्धित
"UA" — "अव"  अनिर्बन्धित सार्वजनिक प्रर्दषन के लिए किन्तु 12 वर्ष से कम आयु के बालक/बालिका को माता-पिता के मार्गदर्षन के साथ फिल्म देखने की चेतावनी के साथ
"S" — "एस" किसी विषिष्ठ व्यक्तियों के लिए निर्बन्धित

It is interesting that "S" rating is not translated like "U" and "A", and "U" becomes "A" in Hindi.

Now, some more trivia. See the triangle in Guide's certificate or in Cocktail's. Why is a triangle shown on some certificates and not on some? This is because of other rule and it is here Part II comes into place. A triangle means that some portions of the film have been cut and removed. Part II contains details of the the length of the excisions and modifications, and this part is not required to be shown in the certificate. 

Cocktail — 2012

The interesting part is that we can go and search on the CBFC's website as to what exactly has been removed. So, in Cocktail, the following changes have been done. Seriously, they muted awesome in bed (!!)

The website is not very user friendly and like any government website is too slow, but it is a great place to see such information. The number of cuts in The Dirty Picture make up many lists, and even a film, such as Ek Main Aur Ekk Tu, has many cuts mentioned on the website.

Also, a film certificate is valid for a period of ten years, and after that is has to be re-certified. For example, look at the certificate of Yash Chopra's Daag. The word re-certifcation is written on the certificate. The film was released in 1973, but the certificate's validity is 1983-1993. The design of the certificate has changed over the years, and presently, we only see the date of issue in certificates. I would want to research a film that was certified earlier but was refused a re-certificate. It would be interesting to know such cases.

Daag — 1983

These days a lot of text is being written in the certificate. It is difficult to read the certificate even for five-six seconds, which defeats the purpose. Here are some certificates of films over the years. 

Chalti Ka Naam Gaadi — 1969

Anand — 1970

Guddi — 1981

Maine Pyar Kiya — 1989

Lamhe — 1991

Dil Chahta Hai — 2001

Rockstar — 2011

If anyone is interested, they can read more here.

A few days ago, the CBFC CEO was arrested on charges of corruption. If we read the rules of certification, we see that these are so subjective, that they can easily be used for harassment of filmmakers. I still do not understand why did they blur Rani's (Kangana Ranaut) bra in the washroom scene with Vijaylakshmi (Lisa Haydon) in Queen, and later, in the film, they did not blur when she is in the hostel in Amsterdam. Sometimes, the cuts spoil the entire scene, like they did in Vicky Donor in a scene of Dr. Chaddha (Anu Kapoor). At one point, we talk about freedom of expression, and at the other point, we censor anything that could be offensive. Ask Anurag Kashyap and how his first film never got released because of problem with the CBFC. But again, I don't entirely blame the board. Our country runs through political violence, and everyone wants to extract a pound of flesh. Just look at what Raj Thackeray did when Wake Up Sid used the word Bombay, instead of Mumbai. I predict another controversy that is waiting to happen. When Bombay Velvet is about to release, Thackeray's goons will be out again. But still, some of the archaic rules of the CBFC can surely be modified. Anyway, as if my saying is going to make any difference. It is so fascinating to know about the certificate that we see in every film, and yet don't know much about it. Some day, I want to become a part of the film-making process. At least, now, I can help in providing information about the certificate :)  

Watch this lovely, lovely trailer of English Vinglish where Shashi reads the CBFC certificate.

Dialogue of the Day:
"Haddein jitni zyada hongi, unke tootne ka darr bhi utna hi hoga."
—  Kamaljeet Saran, Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Dil To Pagal Hai and Books In Movies

After coming back from work, nothing refreshes my mind like watching a Hindi movie does. There is a certain joy that comes from re-watching a film I love; it is like the feeling that we get when our favorite song comes on the radio. Yesterday, I was watching parts of Dil To Pagal Hai. I have loved this movie since its release, and have been judged by one and all for saying that it is one of my favorite Yash Chopra films. So, as I started watching, I noticed something different this sometimes.

At one point, after Nisha (Karishma Kapoor) injures her ankle and is being treated in the hospital, we see that she is reading a book called The Celestine Prophecy by James Redfield. It looks pretty innocuous, and it appears to be like one of Dan Brown's paperbacks. Wikipedia says, "The Celestine Prophecy is a 1993 novel by James Redfield that discusses various psychological and spiritual ideas that are rooted in many ancient Eastern Traditions and New Age spirituality. The main character of the novel undertakes a journey to find and understand a series of nine spiritual insights on an ancient manuscript in Peru. The book is a first-person narrative of the narrator's spiritual awakening as he goes through a transitional period of his life." It further adds, "In the novel, the manuscript was found in the ruins of the Maya civilization in Peru, whereupon the Incas took up residence in the abandoned Maya cities after the Maya had reached an energy vibration level which made them cross a barrier into a completely spiritual reality." This last sentence left me really surprised. Why? Because the name of the imaginary girl that Rahul (Shah Rukh Khan) loves is also Maya. This is too unlikely to be only a coincidence. And, if it is, it is too creepy to be one. Earlier in the film, Nisha had said to Rahul that she does not get the character of Maya. Nisha believes that Maya does not want to come out of her dreams and girls like her do not exist these days. Rahul says that Maya is not like the girls of today; she is different. So, did his idealistic Maya symbolically refer to a utopian Maya civilization, one that is called one of the greatest since time began? And, Nisha reading a book on Maya civilization a somewhat cryptic hint at her efforts to understand Maya? She loved Rahul immensely and was this a way to understand how she can emulate herself to be like Maya—Rahul's dream girl?
Dil To Pagal Hai's choreography is spectacular. Shiamak Davar, rightly, got the National Award for best choreography. It revolutionized Hindi film dancing. One of the most amazing things about his dance is the background dancers. They are so good that, sometimes, we just look at what is happening in the background, perfectly in sync, and as well dressed as the lead dancer. Sometimes, I wonder how do people get such creative vision? Just look at the fabulous costumes used in the songs in the films. As to dance, Shiamak uses a fusion of contemporary jazz, freestyle, and Kathak in the film. It is simply amazing. Even in Taal, the choreography is so good. In many interviews, Shiamak has talked about his spiritual inclinations. He says, "Dance is a spiritual experience. It helps balance mind, body and spirit. It helps you to break free and brings you closer to the world God has conceived for you. It was about taking the motto of 'Have Feet. Will Dance' one step further to ' Have Spirit. Will Triumph.' I wanted dance to reach everyone, to be able to bring a smile on their face and to heal them. Dance works as therapy, it heals. Music in itself is therapeutic, it's almost like meditation. With dance one allows their body to move in a certain way, express various emotions and let their inhibitions and frustrations out. It is a beautiful form of letting go." It is worth noting that Rahul wants Pooja (Madhuri Dixit) to dance like Maya, and the words that Shiamak said are exactly the way Maya dances. "Tum dil khol ke nahi naach rahi ho. Maya ke naach me mohabbat hai, junoon hai, guroor hai." And, then, Pooja dances with passion and without any inhibitions. As they say, "And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music." There is a very beautiful moment where just before dancing like Maya, Pooja bows down to touch the stage. Even in such a contemporary style, there is a traditional element. But, what surprised me the most, and again, I over-analyze, was the jugalbandi between Rahul and Pooja. Rahul plays the drums, and Pooja dances Kathak with her ghungroos. It is a fabulous piece of choreography, and Madhuri flies in it. Maya is as pure as the white dress she is wearing, and she dances her heart out when no one is watching, in the moonlight (the spotlight gives a distinct impression that it is moonlight). Maya is the ideal Yash Chopra heroine. Also, note the painting of Vitruvian Man in the studio. The painting demonstrates the blend of art and science during the Renaissance and Leonardo da Vinci believed the human body to be an analogy for the workings of the universe. The patented pose of Shah Rukh could in Dil To Pagal Hai mean something else. The pose that Rahul gives after seeing Pooja's dance is like a mirror image of the Vitruvian Man. He stands in the circle of light with his arms and legs stretched, exactly like the man in the painting. Considering Shiamak's deeply spiritual inclinations, was it intentional? Most of the people who read this would call this total crap, but I like to believe that it might have a deeper meaning.
And, Nisha—I love her. There is a brutal honesty in her that is immensely heartbreaking. She loves Rahul, and she knows that Rahul does not love her, but she does not try to force herself on him. When she gets to know that Rahul loves Pooja, she feels jealous. She says that she should be happy about it, but instead, she is not feeling good at all. It requires great courage to acknowledge one's true feelings, especially, if they are not good. She apologizes to Pooja because of her competing behavior with her as she was feeling jealous. She says, "Mujhe khud se dar lagne laga hai, Rahul," and, then, she goes away so that she can stay away from him for some time. She might not have got Rahul, but she came out as a much better person, who has learned to accept her flaws, and about the unfairness of life. She would take time to get over Rahul, but I hope she found someone who is able to keep her happy. 
This week in the Outlook magazine, there was an article by Diptakirti Chaudhuri, about books read by characters in Hindi films. I have loved finding the books that various characters read in movies, and any movie that I watch, I make it a point to note that. To my utter surprise, I found that the article credited the source as the Hindi Movies Quotes Facebook page, which I manage. I, also, want to write such articles, but no one gives me a chance. I have applied to many places but no one gets back. The article is here. And, I found so many more books in the last week. Adding them, and some of the old ones from the page below. More on this page or follow me on Twitter, where I post with the tag #BooksInMovies.
Riya in Hum Tum reads The Bride Stripped Bare by Nikki Gemmell. The book is about a young wife who has disappeared and chronicles her relationship with a mysterious man she meets at a library group. Interesting parallels with Riya's life whose husband dies, and she meets Karan on a flight.
Naina in Kal Ho Na Ho reads A Blind Man Can See How Much I Love You by Amy Bloom, and 100 Love Sonnets by Pablo Neruda. Of course, she is in love.

Susanna in Saat Khoon Maaf reads Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy. Anna's tragic story is like Susanna's.

Nisha in Dil To Pagal Hai reads The Celestine Prophecy by James Redfield. 

In Bombay Talkies, Gayatri reads Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James. The lack of sexual passion in Gayatri's own marriage is made worse by reading the kinky escapades of Ana Steel.

In Wake Up Sid, Aisha reads The End of the Affiar by Graham Greene. The novel examines the obsessions, jealousy and discernments within the relationships between the characters, just like Aisha's with Sid's.

In Highway, Veera holds Women Who Run With The Wolves, a book that celebrates, and normalizes women who have gone the distance and completed the work to find happiness and healing of their souls. Replace book with the film and that is what Highway is about, too.
In the Masakali song from Delhi-6, Roshan reads Demons of Chitrakut, a book which is a modern retelling of the events of the Ramayana. That is absolutely true of the movie Delhi-6, too, where the evils of society are linked to events from the Ramayana, such as the similarity of treatment of Jalebi and Shabri. And, yes, there are actual scenes from Ram Leela in the movie as well.  
In Cocktail, Veronica's room has Wildcat by Craig Thomas, Big Lies by Joe Conason, and Anybody Out There by Marian Keyes. Expectedly, and in line with her character, there are copies of books titled Cocaine and Kama Sutra as well.

I have so many more pictures to add but more later. So much to write.

Dialogue of the day:
"Aur paas, aur paas, aur paas."
— Rahul, Dil To Pagal Hai

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Of The Bond Between Queen's Characters...

I was watching parts of Aiyyaa and Queen after coming back from work. There is something magical about these movies that cheer me up instantly. And, I was thinking about Rani and the friends she makes in Amsterdam—Olexander, Taka and Tim. At one point, Taka and Rani are talking to each other in their respective native languages. But, it feels that they still get each other. All these four had some pain in their lives, and maybe that made them such great friends, by having the power to empathize with someone else's pain. Olexander used to paint to take out his anger and pain at the continued destruction of earth's resources and the war over oil. He says to Rani that he expressed his anger through painting. Taka used to cheer everyone by his funny acts, but deep inside, this was a mask for coping with the death of his parents. As they say, humor is a mask used by comedians to bear with the grief. Tim is a musician who sings on the streets of Paris and makes money from selling his CDs. Interestingly, Tim is played by Guitobh Joseph, who, in fact, is a member of the group Presteej, that in real life sang on the streets of Paris, and is now, collecting money to bring out their first album. Their website is here. The guitar that he uses in Queen also has Presteej written on it. Perhaps Tim uses music to cope with the pain of poverty. Of course, Rani suffered heartbreak when her fiancé broke up with her only a day before their wedding. All of her friends used some form of creative expression to cope and move on with their lives, and maybe that helped form a bond between all the four of them. In Rockstar, they said, "Toote hue dil se hi sangeet nikalta hai."  Maybe, it should be said that toote hue dil se hi kala nikalti hai—it is heartbreak that creates art. There is a beautiful paragraph in Siddharth Dhanvant Shangvi's evocative The Last Song of Dusk. He writes, "Perhaps all art is nothing but a road from lovelessness. A means to manage the void. Because love in its ripeness, annihilates the impulse to create simply because it is creation. The lived experience seeks no outward expression; private and secure in its own self, it just is." Maybe, that is the reason the greatest creations have been created by the most depressed artists. 

There is another great aspect of the movie. The character of Ruksar/Roxette. Ruksar speaks chaste Urdu and she works in the red light district of Amsterdam in one of those neon lit sex shops. But the film never judges her choice of profession. We do not know if poverty drove her to do something that made us not give her real address to her ammi. Compare it with the abhorrent media coverage of case involving Shweta Basu, the award winning child actor of Makdee and Kahaani Ghar Ghar Ki, in the last few days. There is a great point that Greatbong makes; he says if educated people can sell their brain for money, then what is wrong if someone sells their body? We don't know if Ruksar likes her work, but she is living her life, and Queen never forces us to judge her. Even Vijaylakshmi, who has a child out of wedlock, is never portrayed as someone with a loose character. She is a strong woman who is not shy to embrace her sexuality. In a scene, she and Rani have a very touching moment at the Eiffel Tower. It gave me a feeling that there is something sad about Vijaylakshmi as well. Queen is about these sad characters but their sadness never overshadows their will to live their lives. The expression of Rani's father on hearing about the cancellation of the wedding is so heartbreaking, yet he accepts it and even cheers Rani about the future. That is the lesson that Rani learnt from all of it, and that is why Queen is such a great film, a collection of sad characters, embracing their grief, and moving on. 

There is some sort of kinship that we all have with Rani. Till two years ago, the maximum distance that I might have traveled alone would be about 20 kilometers. I did not have many friends in college, and no body really liked me because I am not exactly a fun person. I don't have the gift of the gab, but after coming here, I have traveled alone to places that I never thought I will. I went to Chicago all alone for a week, and saw places where there was not one person to be seen. Travelling in buses and subway trains, asking the way from strangers, getting lost in the underbelly of the city in the middle of the night because the cellphone got discharged. I stayed in Des Moines for three months where there was exactly one person who knew me. I walked five miles in California, and at that time, I did not have a smartphone, to watch Jab Tak Hai Jaan. I have lost my luggage whenever I have moved to a new city. Sometimes, I travel to beaches far away all alone. I have been living alone for the last two years, and I, actually, like living alone. I cook for myself, pay my bills, clean my house, set up my furniture, wash my clothes. It has taught a lot, and I have learnt many things about myself, which I never realized. I am not a happy person but I try to do things that make me happy, like watching movies. That is how Rani learnt so much from her trip abroad. She became a totally different person. And, as Santosh Desai puts it splendidly in this piece on Rani, " individual emerges from within quite effortlessly once the cloud of implicitness that governs behavior is lifted. Europe lifts the expectations that accompany class and gender in Rani’s local context in India, and her foreign-ness renders irrelevant her external appearance and behaviour. She is freed even from the limitations of language; English is after all, merely another language in Paris, not an instrument of class."

I thought I will write something but my thoughts went blank last week, and I didn't have anything that I wanted to write on. I have lost my analytical ability, so I feel I will have nothing more to write about movies. I don't know if I will be able to continue writing with the pace that I used to write earlier.