As if the battle against the censorship of Udta Punjab weren’t gruelling enough for filmmaker and producer Anurag Kashyap, another film of his has run into trouble.
The Indian Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) has banned upcoming drama Haraamkhor (Wretched), a film that has Anurag Kashyap Films Private Limited (AKFPL) as one of its producers. AKFPL, headed by Indie filmmaker Guneet Monga, has produced award-winning films including The Lunchbox, Gangs of Wasseypur 1 and 2 and Udaan.
Shlok Sharma’s directorial debut, Haraamkhor is a story set in an Indian village and portrays a group of school-going teenagers and their infatuations and crushes. However, one of the young girls (played by Shweta Tripathi) ends up in a relationship with a married teacher (played by Nawazuddin Siddiqui).
The controversy around Haraamkhor began when Kashyap was still struggling to get certification for Udta Punjab, his film on the drug menace in the Indian state of Punjab, which released in the UAE on June 16.
Udta Punjab eventually released after the Bombay High Court overturned the CBFC's decision to cut 13 scenes, and it has already made 21.3 crore rupees (Dh11.6 million) at the box office.
But the fate of Haraamkhor is still undecided.
The CBFC, headed by Pahlaj Nihalani, declined to certify he movie because they found the film’s theme objectionable. They contended that a teacher is a respectable figure in society and should not be shown in poor light. The board is also opposed to children making “lewd gestures” and using “filthy” language in the film.
The decision has been met with surprise, considering that, barely a week ago, while clearing Udta Punjab for release, the Bombay High Court had clearly reminded CBFC of its mandate, which is to certify films and not act as a moral censor. India’s information and broadcasting minister Arun Jaitley had promised radical changes in film certification rules very soon.
Haraamkhor, which was shown at three international film festivals in 2015, won the Silver Gateway of India trophy at the 17th Jio MAMI Mumbai Film Festival. Siddiqui also bagged the Best Actor Award at the 15th annual New York Indian Film Festival.
Chairman Nihalani has, once again, become the butt of social-media jokes and taunts. While #UdtaNihalani was trending last week, #HaraamKhorNihalani is this week’s suggested hashtag on Twitter. And the CBFC is again being trolled for its moral policing. Here are some of the tweets doing the rounds:
Anuj Mittal @iamanujmittal: Another @anuragkashyap72 movie refused by CBFC. This time because the title is the copyright of its chief.
Dear Chirpy @IndianPrism: Seems Mr Nihalani & CBFC learnt nothing from #UdtaPunjab fiasco; are suckers for punishment. Not passing #Haraamkhor.
Rohit Nair @IamRoy008: #CBFC instd of stopping movies like Udta Punjab n now #Haramkhor. Utilise the powers vested in you, to stop movies like Himmatwala n others.
Riya Mukherjee @riyalovezu: After the enormous success of #UdtaPunjab the CBFC #PankajNihalani is back with a bang on #Haraamkhor
Vedant Udgirkar @Visvavid: CBFC should know by banning the movie THEY ARE NOT banning the act, this things happen even in “sanskari” India #Haramkhor #UdtaPunjab
Veteran filmmaker Ashoke Pandit gave a statement slamming Nihalani, “The entire attitude and mindset of Mr. Nihalani is of the archival time where he thinks he can chase the world and the entire country by his terms on what kind of films should be made and what not.”
Haraamkhor producer Monga has turned to the Film Certification Appellate Tribunal (FCAT) in an effort to get her film released.
“It’s a small, mostly crowdfunded film,” Monga told HuffPost India. “We don’t have the resources to go and fight this out in the courts.”