The new James Bond movie is out this week. It’s called Spectre, and stars Daniel Craig as 007, opposite Bond girl Monica Bellucci. Sadly, this Bond flick has the misfortune of opening in India under the conscientious moral eye of the new Bharatiya Janata Party-directed Central Board for Film Certification (CBFC). The board issued a U/A certification after cutting two swear words from the audio, and reducing two kissing scenes by 50 per cent, because it felt the kisses were unnecessarily long and not suitable for an Indian audience.
This is the kind of bureaucratic dimness that social media was born for. Indian Twitter took out its sharpest claws under the hashtag #SanskariJamesBond.
One example is from a tweet by @allahdin: “The name is Bond. James Bond. S/o Radheysham Bond.” Other examples:
@deepakmohoni: “#SanskariJamesBond had to fill nineteen forms and bribe six babus before he could get his licence to kill.”
@sanjayuvacha: “#SanskariJamesBond likes his gomutra shaken not stirred.”
Of @zigzackly’s torrent of acidic #SanskariJamesBondmovie titles, my favourite is ‘The Spy Who Eve-Teased Me’.
Dear people of India, we have returned to that pass which we thought we had already passed. Silver screen lovers have finally emerged from behind cutaways to nodding flowers, to kiss like real people. Delhi Belly even had, if I correctly recall, an oral sex scene, even if there was a bedcover involved. Now, in 2015, with the Indian population at 1.2 billion souls, we’re being told by a certification board – backed up by the filmmakers who want as large a viewership as possible – that Indians only kiss for half the time that Bond does. What, will our heads explode if we are exposed to kisses longer than that?
I don’t know about you, dear people of India, but while I have never timed my kisses before, I’m going to start doing so now, and I urge you to as well. We should all report our findings to the Government of India, because it should have as much data as possible before deciding what Indian audiences can handle. Meanwhile, I concede that those in charge of our collective morality – both state and non-state actors – have a commendable appetite for ridicule.
Remember those scenes of cops dragging young people out from their discreet necking spots in parks and humiliating them? Remember the cops forcing people out of hotel rooms, fining them, and threatening to call their parents? Remember the yearly anti-Valentine’s Day scenes, and the attempt to turn it into Respect Your Parents Day?
Previous governments have been foolishly coy, but this one, and its factotums, seems positively anti-life. In general terms I’ve always figured that it’s the people who don’t get laid enough, or well enough, who feel compelled to constrain and tear down anyone who looks as if they’re having a good time, but I could be wrong. I’m open to other theories.
Either way, this administration is doggedly installing the poorest-quality, most regressive people in our cultural institutions, to play to the poorest-quality, most regressive people in the country. When dozens of Indians view an exhibition of nude art with appreciation, the one guy who declares it obscene gets all the police attention and forces it to close down. When thousands of people read a book with enjoyment, the one person who cries over his hurt religious sentiments is indulged with a ban. When unusual, or provocative art is displayed for the enjoyment of open-minded art lovers, it is the few with child-like morality who cry foul.
The Indian public has long and many-splendored experience with books, art, and love. We even have a book on the art of love. There are many, many adults in India, but none of them appear to be attached to the CBFC. What the CBFC has is Ashoke Pandit, who reacted to the AIB Roast last December by tweeting that Karan Johar should have sex with his mother. It has Pahlaj Nihalani, sycophant of the year, whose revolting little propaganda film, Mera Desh Hai Mahaan, laughably uses images of progress from the rest of the world to glorify Narendra Modi. I feel for the Prime Minister on that one. With friends like that, who needs enemies?
It is past time that we found the best people to represent us, not the worst; people who can credit India with a little more moral resilience than these asinine prudes. It is time to have an adult at the head of the CBFC. If anybody’s head explodes as a result, it will be in a good way.