Fifty Shades of Grey’s future gets greyer in India

March 4, 2015

Actors Johnson and Dornan arrive for screening at 65th Berlinale International Film Festival in BerlinIndian audiences might not be able to watch the erotic drama “Fifty Shades of Grey”, even though its producer, Universal Pictures, cut all nudity and several sexually explicit scenes in the film before submitting it to the country’s censor board for review.

An examining committee of the censor board objected to some of the language in the film after the studio made the voluntary cuts, according to a Universal source who is familiar with the film’s review process in India.

Censor board CEO Shravan Kumar confirmed that Universal would have to approach the board’s appeals committee if it wants to try again to get the film shown on Indian movie screens. He declined to say why the board denied the certificate.

The film, which has earned about $500 million in global box office sales, was supposed to have debuted in India this past Valentine’s Day. It is an adaption of the British author E.L. James’s popular erotic novel about a mysterious and handsome businessman and his sadomasochistic relationship with a young college student.

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“They initially applied, but when we gave them a date, they said that they were not ready with the content,” Kumar said in a brief interview.

Reuters was unable to learn how much of the film’s 125 minutes Universal cut before presenting it to the board. It is unknown how many more scenes the board asked the studio to cut to allow release in India.

India’s censor board has received much criticism in recent months. Leela Samson, who served several years as its chairman, quit in January after saying that the central government was interfering in the board’s decisions. The most recent such example of interference, she said, was over the release of a film called “MSG: The Messenger of God,” about a maverick religious leader.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government appointed a new chairman and nine of its 12 other board members. They since then have issued guidelines saying that films should not contain profanity. In the case of the new film, “Dum Laga Ke Haisha,” (“Give It All You’ve Got,” roughly), the board asked that the word “lesbian” be removed from the film.

India’s censor board reviews all movies, foreign and domestic, that are scheduled for commercial release in the country. It frequently asks filmmakers and producers to make cuts to films to adhere to their standards of acceptability. These can include anything from toning down sexual behaviour and dialogue to not showing tobacco use to portraying events that might offend people on the basis of faith. It also rates films, including ratings such as “U” for all audiences and “A” for adults only.

(Editing by Robert MacMillan. Follow Shilpa on Twitter @shilpajay and Robert @bobbymacReports | This article is website-exclusive and cannot be reproduced without permission.)

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