India: Film cleared for release by appellate board

21 June 2017
On 24 April 2017, India's film appellate tribunal overturned a decision by the film censorship board, clearing film ‘Lipstick Under My Burkha’ for release.
Photo: Section of ‘Lipstick Under My Burkha’ poster/Twitter


On 24 April 2017, India’s Film Certification Appellate Tribunal (FCAT) overturned a decision by the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) and cleared film ‘Lipstick Under My Burkha’ for release in the country’s cinemas on 21 July 2017, reported The Guardian on 26 April 2017.

“There cannot be any embargo on a film being women oriented or containing sexual fantasies and expression of the inner desires of women,” FCAT said. “As a matter of general approach, if the aspect of sexual desires and their expression is sensitively handled without bringing coarseness, vulgarity or obscenity, pandering prurient tendencies, then it is not to be disallowed.”

FCAT gave the film an adult certificate, meaning anyone aged 18 and over could watch it, and asked the filmmakers to make some cuts, mute some offensive Hindi words from a couple of scenes, and reduce the length of some sex scenes.

“Of course I would have loved no cuts, but the FCAT has been very fair and clear,” film director Alankrita Shrivastava told Agence-France Presse. “I feel that we will be able to release the film without hampering the narrative or diluting its essence.”

CBFC’s censorship
In January 2017 the CBFC refused to certify the film because it was “lady oriented” and contained “sexual scenes, abusive words, audio pornography and a bit sensitive touch about one particular section of society”.

The film tells the story of four Indian women living in a small town, focusing on their personal struggles and sexual awakening. The film has garnered several awards at festivals outside of India.

India’s film industry has begun to criticise the CBFC’s widespread censorship. In June 2016, directors and film workers from the Film Employees Federation of Kerala in southern India held a sit-in protest at the regional CBFC office in Thiruvananthapuram to protest cuts the board demanded to film ‘Kathakali’.

That same month a Bombay High Court ruled in favour of the filmmakers of ‘Udta Punjab’, who took their fight with the CBFC to court after the censorship board ordered 94 cuts to the film. The court ruled the film could be released with just one cut.

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