No ‘Dirty Pictures’ please, we are Indian
Indians woke up on Sunday to front page newspaper ads announcing the TV premiere of “The Dirty Picture”, a National-award winning film that was both critically acclaimed and successful at the box-office.
The film, based on the life of soft porn star Silk Smitha, was one of the most popular Bollywood movies of 2011, and its success catapulted lead actress Vidya Balan into the big league.
It was a glaring example of how Indian audiences, torn between traditional values and rapidly Westernising cities, have come to accept films with bolder themes.
For those who hadn’t watched the film in cinemas, this was a chance to see what the hype was all about. Sony Entertainment, the TV channel, launched a high-octane publicity campaign for Sunday’s telecast.
But noon came and went and there was no “Dirty Picture” in sight. Instead the channel ran a ticker, apologising for not being able to show the movie. As it turned out, the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting deemed it unsuitable for family viewing, asking the channel late on Saturday night to air the film only after 11 p.m.
“It is sad that even after a valid U/A certificate from the CBFC and all the cuts being in place, the channel was directed to telecast the film at 11 p.m.,” Tanuj Garg, CEO of Balaji Motion Pictures, which produced the film, told Reuters. “We have not seen this happen to any other film”.
Of course, if you’ve been a regular on Indian television, this wouldn’t have come as a surprise. Hollywood movies are routinely censored, with even innocuous words beeped out while “having sex” is often changed to “making love” in the subtitles.
HBO’s popular “Game Of Thrones” series, which was telecast on Indian television last year, was almost unrecognisable, with several cuts and beeps.
The irony in all this is that Vidya Balan received the National Award, given by the same ministry, for her role in “The Dirty Picture”.
It all boils down to whether the government gets to decide what you watch or don’t watch on television.