Finding a smidgen of logic in some of the moves of the present Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) has become a Herculean task. It has now asked Sumant Ghosh, the director of The Argumentative Indian, a documentary on economist Amartya Sen, to bleep out specific words that the Nobel laureate has used on camera—the CBFC doesn’t want Amartya Sen mouthing the words “cow”, “Gujarat”, “Hindu India” and “Hindutva”. The reason? So that security in Gujarat is not jeopardised, says CBFC. What is odd—or not actually so, given the reasons it had offered when it wanted ‘Punjab’ deleted from Udta Punjab—is that the direction comes months before elections in Gujarat.
In the Udta… case, too, the direction had come just months before elections in the state. While the ruling dispensation at the Centre was in power in Punjab at the time Udta… was released, it is in power in Gujarat at the moment. Making the optics worse for the Centre, Sen is known to be one of its trenchant critics. For a government dogged by allegations of being deaf to criticism, CBFC seeking to muzzle a rather well-known one sullies its image further—and creates a complete unnecessary front for it to battle on, given how the matter is already being painted as a move to curb free speech.
If Sen has said anything reprehensible about Gujarat, Hindus or cows or any permutation of ‘implications’ using the words, the legal route is the best one to take. Let someone challenge Sen or the makers of the documentary in court. It is unclear why the CBFC is acting like the custodian of good sense, given the body is named for film certification and not censorship. It would be better if the Board were to stick to just certifying films as per the level of viewer maturity required and letting viewers decide how much the reel is reflective of the real.