I am Pawan Kumar, the director of the Kannada film Lifeu Ishtene. On the 30th of August, you watched my film and you passed your views about it, and gave us a U/A certificate with a forced ‘voluntary’ cut. I’d like to bring it to your notice that if I had the luxury to fight for my right I’d not have accepted to cut what you insisted.
I am a first time director in a industry which is struggling to survive. Fighting for the cut meant you forwarding our film for further reviewing and that would take couple of weeks more, that would put a lot people involved in making of this movie in a very difficult position. Hence for their sake I simply shut up and bowed to your very tyrant behaviour. This letter is simply me putting out my thoughts, I am not challenging your decision through this. I want the people to know the truth, so that they can decide who was right and who was wrong. Am hoping that you will read this till the end and be convinced that you erred, that’s all I want, I don’t want you to change the decision or apologize, the damage you wanted to do is already done. The letter might seem long but I made it as entertaining as my film was, you will have a good laugh by the end of it.
This being an open letter, I guess the public should know what I am talking about. Here is a picture of the document that Mr. Nagaraj wrote down after seeing the film. He has listed his thoughts point wise, but before I dwell into those, I’d like to mention that I respect the man and his position. He is an IAS officer and I am sure it is pretty tough to be on the chair where he sits, I cant get there for my IQ levels. I like the man for the way he appears, he comes across as a through gentleman and has an aura of being smart, composed and intelligent. I was really hurt and shocked when he listed out his objections for my film. Something that I really didn’t foresee, especially by this person, whom I had met during the censoring of Manasaare and Pancharangi. I did and I still have high regards for him.
Mr. Nagaraj in the above document states “Remove the word sucker from the tag line of the movie, wherever visible in, Move on Sucker”. For those who don’t know, ‘Move on Sucker’ is the tagline of my movie title. Mr. Nagaraj had a problem with the word sucker. He simply said that I must remove that word. I tried arguing with him that it is not a bad word, that it is simply a slang term for someone considered gullible enough to fall for a very obvious prank or con and go about unaware of it. We all know what the word sucker is, we all have used it in phrases like ‘I am sucker for Chinese food’ or ‘I suck in maths’ or ‘the movie sucks’ etc etc. But he just didn’t want to listen to me. He said that he is not interested in the parliamentary meaning of a word, he is interested in how the word could be perceived by the masses and therefore I should cut it out from the film. There was no point arguing further because he was a man sitting there controlling the future of my film and I could see it in his eyes that he just didn’t want to understand even if I tried to explain. I said “ok I will remove it”. The word comes 3 times on the screen in the film, to remove that the producer has shelled out 45k till now. 45k is not a small amount, with that money I could have put an Ad in the papers and promoted the film more, get more people to watch the film and try to save our sinking industry, or I could have simply paid it to someone in the team who has been working day and night to offer something new to the people, but instead we had to waste it on a stubborn man with a lot of power. Look at the visual below, tell me how is removing of that word changed anything?
If sucker is such a bad influence on the society, what about the words ‘BoseDK’, ‘Ass Hole’, ‘Fucker’, ‘BlowJob’, all these words were featured in Delhi Belly. The same CBFC (Central Board Of Film Certification) passed it and the movie made pot loads of money!! I am not someone who encourages those words. I am a very clean guy, I don’t speak or promote bad language, you wont find it in my movie too. Before coming up with the tag ‘Move on sucker’ I did look through the internet to make sure the word Sucker didn’t mean anything wrong. Its only after I gathered enough information that I put it up. We are a small industry and we have very small budgets to make films. We are pitted against movies from Hindi, Tamil, Telugu and English; all these industries have huge budgets to take the audience away from us. If we have to get them to watch our movies we need to sound contemporary, talk to them in a language they understand. A line like ‘move on sucker’ would make the people in their 20’s connect to the movie, and they’d make an effort to watch it. Why is it that when Aamir Khan does it, its alright? He did way too much and it was still alright!!! By asking me to remove the word ‘sucker’ from my movie tagline, the Censor Board has been impartial to me. Mr. Nagaraj is aware of the financial state of the Kannada industry. He very well knows how much we are struggling to make people trust us. And he has seen my movie and he also said ‘your movie is 99% qualified for U certificate but sprinkled with some objectionable matter’. The word sucker was one of them. And the word was not simply a publicity gimmick, after you watch the movie you’d understand how that word makes sense in the movie. The guidelines by the censor board of India states – A film is judged in its entirety from the point of view of its overall impact and is examined in the light of the period depicted in the film and the contemporary standards of the country and the people to whom the film relates, provided that the film does not deprave the morality of the audience. Guidelines are applied to the titles of the films also.
People, please tell me and Mr Nagraj, if the word ‘sucker’ has in anyway depraved the morality of you all. What censor board needs is a sense of humour. It needs to grow up and wake up to the people who live around them and not in their guidelines. Television today has become horrible, it is impossible to see and hear many of the things that is aired on many news and entertainment channels. Something that you can probably watch with your family is Discovery channel and sports channels, not even the sanskar or astha who are using the dangerous weapon against the society, the religion . But the censor board is all quite about it. Television has no censor, it doesn’t come under their jurisdiction.
Mr. Nagaraj, we are all suckers, you are one, I am one too. And the people know that. They know that they are one too. And that’s the funny thing about it. When we accept our flaws and imperfections and laugh about it, we can put our egos behind and try to progress. That’s what my movie on the whole was trying to say. For some reason you didn’t see it beyond the word ‘Sucker’ without even knowing the meaning of it.
Now coming to the other angle to the whole issue, which I hope is not true but is very possible. I think it is the ego. I very strongly feel that it is the ego of Mr. Nagaraj that makes him do what he does. He sitting in his little cabin in the govt building, enjoys seeing us film makers dance to his tunes. I am sure it must be giving him a kick that he can in 2 hours 30 mins control a film makers 10 months of hard work by just using one word. He knows how difficult it is technically to remove those words from a completed film and that’s why he does that. For people who are not aware it might seem very simple, you must be thinking how difficult it is to just delete a word. If I get into the process I can do a 6 hour workshop and probably you’d learn most of the technical aspects of film making. In simple words, it took many people and many days of work in Banaglore and Chennai to erase that word. I hope all this makes Mr. Nagaraj very satisfied and gives him a good night’s sleep. This is the story of how the word Sucker got separated from the film Lifeu Ishtene.
Now, let me introduce you to some more blunders. But I could live with these because frankly I don’t give a damn whether my movie is U or U/A, and thankfully neither people are interested in those ratings anymore. Like I said the Censor board is so stuck up with their guidelines that they don’t see how people are today. My movie got a U/A because of a scene which is got something to do with condom. The government is trying really hard to reach out to people, they even come up with jingles, in kannada there is an ad – maatadidavane mahaashoora. But Mr. Nagaraj feels that it is very uncomfortable for adults to see such content with children. That’s precisely the point sir, that’s what government is trying to say ‘don’t be shy about it, talk openly and spread awareness’. Teenagers should get aware of it, they should be bold enough to talk about a condom and not make a taboo of it. But instead Mr Nagaraj goes to the extent of writing – delete comedy episode surrounding condom for a U certificate. But I didn’t agree with him, I agreed for a U/A instead and the scene is intact. In a week you will see it and you will know that it is not in bad taste and is for sure spreading awareness.
The second one is debatable, Mr Nagaraj has pointed out a shot where a woman is smoking. His justification was that it is not right to show women smoking and therefore he writes – also delete the visual of lady smoking. I am not going to defend this much. I don’t smoke and I am for anti smoking. I had even made a short film on the anti smoking subject.
In Lifeu Ishtene, the character which the lady was playing was of the types who would smoke and therefore I hade to make her light up. Deleting this shot would not change the reality though, we see so many women smoking these days, and it is really bad. Smoking is bad for both men and women, and I sincerely hope that smoking comes to an end. And in no way is my film promoting or glamorising smoking. The Censor guideline says – scenes tending to encourage, justify or glamorise consumption of tobacco or smoking are not shown. To show the bad result of a habit, the story needs to build up and then show the effect. That’s what my shot of the lady smoking was doing. No problem here, I will gladly take a U/A for this point.
The third is silly actually. In the third point Mr. Nagaraj says – delete lip to lip kissing in the song. Well not much defending here, for some reason we Indians want to think that showing love on screen is more dangerous than showing violence. On a funny note may be the government has a strategy behind this, Lets not teach people to express love, there by reducing population and lets show more violence so that they could kill each other and again reduce population!!!! Am I the only one laughing at this stupid joke??? Ok Mr. Nagaraj I will accept a U/A for this too. I am sure the 15frames (less than a second) of lip to lip pecking in the mayavi mayavi song would make the adults very uncomfortable to watch it with children under the age of 18 years old. However I have one question for you – How did you pass the song ‘Padmavathi’ from the movie ‘Johny Mera Naam’ with a U certificate? That one really shocks me. Because though I am an adult and my father is an adult too, we both would be uncomfortable watching it together in theatre or on TV. Please ask yourself if the very aesthetically shot 15 frames of a small peck on the lip in my movie was worse than what you can see in a 4 min song. Here is the link to that song if you want watch it again and wonder why you gave it a ‘U’.
Your guidelines clearly states the following – human sensibilities are not offended by vulgarity, obscenity or depravity; scenes degrading or denigrating women in any manner are not presented. Isn’t this song violating all of this?????
People please note that from what I can read of Mr. Nagaraj, he is a very good person, I am not being sarcastic, I might be against his decisions but I don’t hate him. Please don’t think that he was expecting a bribe or anything like that. I can for sure say that he is NOT a corrupt govt servant. He is doing his job but he has to simply get some of the realities in the right perspective. Lets help him know what he is not aware of so that he stays with us as the regional head of Karnataka for CBFC, and make right decisions and help us all save good kannada films. If you believe in this article and you want to support me, then please mail Mr. Nagaraj your views in a few words and a few words only, lets not waste his time. I hope you will not send abuses because I am not in support for that. Mail him on firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com and cc a copy to me on actorinme(at)gmail(dot)com . I guess the subject line of the mail should be with a sense of humor, keep it as – Lets grow up, suckers! 😉
(Note: I still haven’t received the final Censor Certificate from Mr. Nagaraj, he is going to give it to us after he checks the film and finds no ‘sucker’ in it. We have followed his instruction and removed it and showing the corrected film copy on monday. I could have waited till monday to get the certificate and then put this article up. But I didn’t want to be a chicken in expressing my views. I hope Mr. Nagaraj will stand up to his gentleman image and not take this article to his ego and create problems to the release of the film on the scheduled date. He is in a position to completely reject this article but he is not in a position to take this personally to take revenge.)
( PS – This letter was first posted here)