Tuesday, August 22, 2006


[aka cheaty! cheaty! ban! ban!]

Somebody decides to capitalise on the mixed reactions to the language in Vishal's Omkara. This "somebody" might go improperly represented, if the 6 news sources[1] I've read so far are any indication. Three of them (TimesNow, NDTV, Zee News) say his name is "Naeem Khan"; CNN-IBN picks "Naseem Khan" (and IndiaFM agrees) and later settles on "Nasim Khan." Not one to let the general populace forget their coup de vérité with Saat Hindustani and the National Film Awards, DNA chooses the more verbose "Nasim Khan Sajjad Hussain." Pursuant to the tradition of yours-humbly writhing-truly of favouring the 2-letter abbreviation, we will refer to the plaintiff as NK.

His arguments are predictable and only marginally interesting.

In my 18 years of acting, I have not heard such profane language. The profanity in the film will cause grave harm and injury to society and damage young minds beyond repair. Youngsters love to imitate film heroes. It is therefore in the interest of justice that the film be banned. Omkara is a film which is harmful to society at large and the censor certificate must be cancelled.

That's a great example of the cut-up technique at work. These generalisations smack of prudery and only fuel the suspicion that the most likely cause for this protest is nothing but a short-sighted clueless narrow-minded hunger for political mileage.

Should we retort by asking NK if trite simplistic ideas of family, rape, violence and titillating vistas of semi-clad babes are less likely to "cause grave harm and injury to society and damage young minds beyond repair"? Or should we just hope that this mild tremor gets the film some more business?

NK also notes: I was shocked and surprised to hear the most vulgar abuse in a strikingly loud voice, as soon as the National Anthem had ended. I'm not sure I understand this. Do they play the National Anthem at movie theatres? So KANK, which exploited the NRI sentiment to the hilt, was preceded by a song extolling the virtues of a land that scarcely mattered to the film?

As if this was not enough to stir up a dust puppy, NK also believes that the film degrades the word "Omkara", which is backed by the sanctity of religion, respected by all, and defines the highest of all creation. I would be interested in knowing NK's take on the fate of Om in Koi...Mil Gaya. And could he also suggest an alternative for Omkara that would fit into the film, the dialogues, the milieu and the soundtrack? How about mapping Othello to Ataullah? Oh! Now you want my rear for that remark eh? o kaThor!!

Could someone also tell me more about the "50" films that this guy has worked in?

The IndiaFM report seems to relish this move given that it opens with: For all of you who hated the vulgar dialogues in Omkara, you have a reason to celebrate. For those who liked the film, read on.... The report later falters badly though when it says the film is in the Bihari dialect. Wrong! It's the Haryanvi Gujjar dialect and the film is set somewhere near Meerut, UP (although it never, AFAIR, explicitly tells us about the location).

The hearing's been deferred to Wednesday, August 23.

Cheer yourself with Raja Sen's wonderful interview of Deepak "Rajju" Dobriyal. And if you are sick of all those "foul mouth words" (courtesy: IndiaFM), go drool at some Priyanka Chopra photographs.

[1] TimesNow | Zee News | CNN-IBN | DNA | IndiaFM | NDTV

addendum [august 24, 2006]: City Civil judge A T Vaidya has asked NK to explain what he found objectionable in the film and was also asked to produce materials supporting his allegation. This was on August 23, 2006; things reconvene on August 24, 2006 at some time IST. Meanwhile there's a nice interview with Censor Board Chief Sharmila Tagore (conducted by Subhash K Jha). The extract below shows an appreciation of the creative intent evident in the characters of Omkara and Langda; clearly this seems beyond the puny POV of Shri NK:

The film was depicting a certain section of society that doesn't follow the rules of civil society, the law-breakers, so to speak, in a certain community. The difference between the characters of Omkara and Langda Tyagi was that Omkara was a little nobler among the outlaws. Langda Tyagi is more uncouth.

The director differentiated between the two characters of the hero and the villain through the language. That’s how the two baddies ended up being two different shades of black.

And here's something about the power wielded by some Bollywood biggies:

If producers like Karan Johar, Yash Chopra and Rakeysh Mehra have a problem, they directly ring up the ministry and sort it out. But the same problem for a smaller filmmaker needs to be dealt with by us. There’s no collective wisdom to censorship. If there was a uniform code, things would be a lot easier.

ST notes the difference between the censor board and a body of law and order. She even notes how much litigation her office has to deal with, thanks, perhaps, to people like NK. Imagine Paheli, our Oscar entry, being accused of endorsing superstition (instead of being a profound font of ennui):

We're inundated with litigations. One of our office bearers is constantly in court. It's such a drain on our limited resources. We need to take a good look at censorship. If the film industry provides entertainment, it should be allowed the freedom of expression. When we, as an enabling body, find something objectionable we cut a few scenes. Otherwise we just give a certificate. Vishal Bhardwaj preferred an 'A' certificate rather than a 'U/A' certificate for Omkara even though it meant limiting his audience. That was his artistic freedom.

addendum: [august 29, 2006]: The Sessions Court has refused to ban the film. Hope NK's got his thrills for now.

addendum: [september 02, 2006]: The fun never stops. Now there's a hydra-headed petition afoot that requests the cancellation of the censor certificate issued to the film (isn't it time the CBFC got a disclaimer saying "goods once sold will not be taken back"?) as well as the cancellation of the tax-free status recently conferred on the film in Uttar Pradesh. And we must not forget the evidence of a regressive biscuit tin intellect at work: Mr. [Prem Chandra] Sharma [Hindu Personal Law Board secretary] has contended the Censor Board should not have passed the film with an 'A' certificate, since it was named after a Hindu deity. Sudarshan dropped a comment here about the religious angle; his comment, although in jest, might stand in well for the sick workings of the mind of Mr. Sharma.

addendum: [september 11, 2006]: and now we have a PIL filed by a local lawyer against the film for its "abusive" language that is against the interest of society. Clearly, we have a lot of time on our hands.

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