NEW DELHI: ”Gujarat” Bleep! “Hindu India” Bleep! “Cow” Bleep! “Hindutva view of India” Bleep!!

And with this the Central Board of Film Certification stopped the release of The Argumentative Indian, a documentary on Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen by economist Suman Ghosh that was scheduled be released in Kolkata this weekend. The filmmakers, but of course, have refused to bleep out these words and hence have not got the censor certificate for the film.

Ghosh was quoted by the Kolkata newspapeer The Telegraph as saying, “the attitude of the censor board just underlines the relevance of the documentary in which Sen highlights the growing intolerance in India.” He expressed shock adding however, that he would never “bleep or mute or change anything that one of the greatest minds of our times has said in the documentary.”

The documentary first made in 2002 on Amartya Sen has been revisited by Suman Ghosh. A part of it was shot at Shantiniketan with Sen interacting with the students, and spending an entire day for this. The old documentary was titled Amartya Sen: A Life Reexamined, the new one will be titled The Argumentative Indian, a book by Sen that is basically a collections of essays on pluralism and intellectual debate.

Pahlaj Nihalani was brought in as the CBFC chief by the Modi government, amidst protests that were completely ignored. Since then Nihalani has steered the Censor Board into new depths since he took over. Recently the Board refused to clear Prakash Jha’s Lipstick Under My Burkha as it felt the movie to be “too lady oriented”. Of course Jha pushed for reconciliation with some cuts, but not before sufficient bad blood had been generated over a controversy that made the filmmaker attack the Censor Board for representing “a mentality.”

Nihalani of course, has countered criticism by maintaining that this was just a publicity stunt by filmmakers to get publicity for their movies. But his interventions have been varied. He stopped the release of a Bollywood movie Jab Harry Met Sejal as he did not like the word “intercourse”. He relented later to say that he would clear the word provided it got one lakh votes!

And clearly the rules are only for Nihalani to determine. The Censor Board became the object of some ridicule when it cut out a kissing scene in a James Bond movie Spectre. And followed it up by chopping off a kissing scene from movie Tamasha as well as a couple of others if the film magazines are to be believed. But clearly Befikre described as the boldest Yash Raj movie ever with 23 kisses went through the scissors without even one cut. Nihalani’s excuse: “Firstly, there is a difference in the intention and purpose of the kisses in 'Befikre' and the ones you mention in the earlier films. Those earlier kisses were very intimate and sexual in nature, and also shot in lingering close-ups. In 'Befikre', the kisses are used as signs of affection, warmth and kinship. And they are not shot in close-ups. That makes a helluva difference in terms of impact.” He seems to be a connoisseur!

In an interview to India Today Nihalani established his legitimacy “Mein to Modi Bhakt hoon.”

Sen has been vocal against the Modi government. In an interview to The Hindustan Times he said, “Well, the main thing is of allowing and encouraging dissent. A government is not the State and the government is not the authority to decide what can be discussed and what cannot be discussed. Even Kashmir is a subject for discussion. After all, we are a democracy. We have been fortunate to have not been run by the military as our unfortunate neighbour Pakistan has been. So what do we use the democracy for? To discuss these things. Secondly, as it happened with Kanhaiya Kumar, they were not discussing Kashmir. They were discussing something else. Sadly, there is a distortion. A video is produced where there’s an absolute deliberate distortion. But the people who did that distortion have still not been brought to book. Then this chap is arrested –– a mere kid and son of an anganwadi worker –– and is assaulted under custody. Underlying all of this is this complete determination not to allow certain expression of opinion. That is totally undemocratic. I think what has taken the biggest knock in India is the idea of individual liberty, also the idea of seeing the government as a government by discussion and seeing people as more than voters who come and go.”