Academician-turned-filmmaker Suman Ghosh has refused to bow down before the Censor Board of Film Certification (CBFC) over its diktat to mute a few “objectionable” words in his documentary The Argumentative Indian. The CBFC had ruled that the words, 'cow', 'Gujarat', 'Hindu India' and 'Hindutva view of India' be muted in the film.
“Asking me to mute words in my documentary is a ludicrous move by the CBFC. I am not going to do anything of that sort and will contest its ruling,” Ghosh told THE WEEK in an exclusive telephone conversation.
The hour-long documentary, the name of which has been borrowed from economist Amartya Sen's book of essays, is about the life and works of the Nobel laureate. In the film, there are clips of Sen's conversations with eminent economists like former World Bank chief economist Kaushik Basu, among others. The controversy erupted when the CBFC ruled that it would grant him the permission to release only when the four words are bleeped in the film.
“The CBFC report is yet to reach me. After it does, I will decide on my next course of action. However, if nothing works, I will release the documentary online,” said the 44-year-old director, who has six Bengali feature films and two national awards to his credit.
Ghosh says that, in the past, he witnessed Bollywood films like Udta Punjab and Lipstick Under My Burkha facing the ire of the censor board. “But I had never thought it would happen to me. I was shocked.”
But at the same time, he says, the controversy has created more buzz for the film, which took him about 15 years to make. “Now, I am hopeful that it will grab more eyeballs.”
He says the CBFC's move portrays India in a bad light globally. Besides, in a democracy, the voice of opposition is important. “In my documentary, Amartya Sen presents that other point of view or counter argument. If you try and block that, then it is not good for the health of a democracy.
“It is not just the growth rate that highlights India on the global map. Social and political aspects also matter equally, when we talk about shinning India. Where is the confidence of the ruling government, I want to ask?”
The CBFC, under the leadership of Pahlaj Nihalani—a vocal BJP supporter—has been receiving a lot of flak for moral policing and overzealous censorship.