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Surprise! BJP’s Censor Board actually unbans swear words banned by Congress’ board

A notification sent by Pahlaj Nihalani, the chief of the new Censor Board as appointed by the BJP Government, containing a list of swear words which should be banned has the entire internet frothing over it. Most people find the list highly regressive and one which impedes creative freedom of an artiste. This has immediately been made political giving it the spin that BJP is now indulging in Moral Policing. The list of the words is as follows:

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Ever since this list has come out, some people from the media have been constantly telling me that this list is being over hyped and that an old list of the old censor board could be equally scandalous. On some digging, I found some interesting facts. I couldn’t find the actual list, but some news articles which do indicate the words which were considered taboo back then.

A report in The Caravan, from March 2012, reveals that the Old Censor Board had a list of 30 words which it considered offensive. The article says “The censor board bars 30 offensive words, including ‘fuck’, references to mothers and genitalia, ‘testicles’, ‘screw’, ‘ass’, and the words ‘call girl’ and ‘prostitute’.” If you compare the sample of this old list with the new list above, you will find most words are common. Also words like “call girl” and “prostitute” have in fact been omitted in the new list. 

Coming to the new list, this list has been sent to all “Regional Offices of CBFC for necessary action”. I would presume that this means, the translations of the above words in various regional languages, would also be banned. For this, I accessed the Kannada CBFC guidelines from 2005 which has a clear list of objectionable words. Translating these Kannada words to English, could give us an indicative list of what the then Central Censor Board had communicated to the Regional office.

Translations of some of the Kannada words are: “son of a whore”, “son of a widow”, “Bastard”, “Gandu” “Banchod”, “Madarchod”, “Chutiya”, “Randi”, “Bitch”. Some words are variations of MC BC, which aren’t really swear words per se, but can be construed as swear words (double meaning words?). As you can see, most of these words are consistent with the new list issued. I also found a request by the Telugu Censor Board, to delete some words in a Telugu movie in 2012. Again the English translation of these words are variations of MC BC.

Since two state Censor boards are following broadly the same practice, it wouldn’t be too far fetched to assume that this was all mandated by the Central Censor Board. So it’s pretty clear that all the words we see in the new list, have been in fact taboo for a long time. Then why all this hooplah now:

Just to be clear I am not justifying anything by saying “Oh look Congress did it too”. My only problem is how the media has played this as if its a new issue and thus generated mass outrage. Wasn’t anyone aware that all these words are already banned? The media played a similar game when the word “Bombay” was asked to be muted. Are these repeated misstatements genuine blunders? Or this an organized attempt to show the BJP Government in bad light? It is an open secret that there exists a strong lobby within Bollywood which is quite openly ant-BJP, and some of these people are very active on Social Media. Is this being orchestrated by them along with the media?

As far as the actual list is concerned, some of the suggestions such as removal of “double meaning” words is indeed idiotic to the say the least. It is a welcome sign that Censor Board member Ashoke Pandit has already expressed his displeasure with this list.

Let us hope this Censor Board is the first one in a decade, to restore some sanity.

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