It wouldn’t be unfair to say that the fate of cinema in India depends as much on the artists involved as it does on the various other bodies that want to control it. When Lipstick Under My Burkha finally hit the theatres I’m sure many people were disappointed. Specifically when those who went to see it for all the scandal and pornography the Central Board Of Film Certification banned it for, found an honest and exceptionally path-breaking film on female experiences. Still for the public to see this for themselves the film had to undergo several cuts, much to the director’s dismay.
A similar fate has followed KaBodyscapes, an independent Malayalam film which is set against a homosexual love story. In the words of the director Jay Cherian, the film revolves around the experiences of the three protagonists, Haris, a gay free-spirited painter, his love interest, Vishnu, a Hanuman bakth from a conservative Hindu right-wing family and Sia a feminist from a conservative Muslim family. The film touches upon the aggression shown by Indian right-wing activists towards artists and writers. After being denied a certification in 2015 the film is now set to release soon.
Though for Cherian who has also produced the film, the road to bring his art to the public has been one of distress, financial bleeding and compromise. According to this report by the Hindu, Cherian had to approach the Kerala High Court when the CBFC resorted to an outright ban on the film despite repeated viewing by its arbitrary committees. After an order of re-evaluation by the court the film was given an adult certification, that too only on the condition that it would undergo certain modifications. Visuals of saffron flags, the masturbating of a female character, and “objectionable and disrespectful” paintings depicting Lord Hanuman carrying books in his hand” had to be removed from the film.
This attack on art that steers away from the dominant narrative clearly says that India’s democracy is much more than ever moving towards an identity that is strongly saffron with little room for diversity or dissent. Even the director who is happy that the film will finally be released after such a prolonged legal battle, admits that all is not well. In an interviewwith the News Minute, he confessed, “This is the current state of free speech in India. The political censorship is normalised, it is an unabashed gesture from the current government.”
However, KaBodyscapes still remains one of the few Indian movies to realistically explore taboos like homosexuality and recent political movements of dissent like the Kiss of Love and the protest against treating menstruation as impure in Kerala. We can’t wait to watch this film that marks a triumph (even if compromised) for Indian cinema.
To watch the trailer of the film click here.
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