The Central Board of Film Certification has added the proper noun “Bombay” to the list of things it considers unsuitable for impressionable Indian minds to contemplate.

The music video of Mihir Joshi’s song Sorry, which is the first song of his album Mumbai Blues, went out on television channels a few days ago with the word “Bombay” bleeped out. The tune is sung from the point of view of a father, who is apologising to his daughter for the violence she is forced to see around her. Joshi wrote the song as a response to the December 2012 Delhi gang-rape and other similar incidents of violence against women.

The lyrics go, "I'm sorry sweetheart...this is the world I'm giving you today, It’s the same thing no matter what you read...from Delhi to Bombay, I wish it was different darling...wish you could feel nice and safe, But the world's gone crazy, I don't know what to say…"

The only reason the 33 year-old musician used the word “Bombay” in the line was because it rhymed with “today”. "I don’t have a problem with anybody using the word Bombay over Mumbai – the album is, after all, called Mumbai Blues,” Joshi said.

He released the album on Times Music in May, and was happy when he heard that the video for Sorry was to be aired. The music video went to the Mumbai branch of the CBFC last month. Joshi was told that the song was acceptable except for one word. The name of the city was officially changed to Mumbai in 1995.

Laughable demand

“I started laughing at first,” Joshi said. “I had no idea how to respond, so I told the music company to do whatever it takes to get the song on air.”

According to Joshi, the next thing he knows, the song is finally on MTV ‒ but with the word Bombay muted out. Some words from the song appear as captions on the screen, which include “Delhi to Bombay”.  Here too, “Bombay” has been blanked out.

This is the case only when the song appears on television – those who wish to hear the track in its pristine version can go to YouTube or download it from music sharing sites or buy the CD. Joshi said he wouldn’t be appealing against the CBFC’s Mumbai office, although he has the right to. “The album was out last year, and I have been waiting for so long for the video,” he said.

The CBFC has been roiled in controversy for the past few months – the complaints range from a refusal to give certificates for independent movies and documentaries to the arbitrary clearing of films over the recommendations of its own members. The Information and Broadcasting Ministry recently appointed a new chairperson and a board to replace Leela Samson and the previous board. The new chairperson, Bollywood potboiler producer Pahlaj Nihalani, has caused alarm bells to ring with his declared intention to clean up the movies, television and the internet. One of the CBFC's targets is profanity, and it appears that even Bombay is an F word to their ears.