Tamil film director Ram’s latest offering Taramani, starring Andreah Jeremiah and Vasanth Ravi, has been kicking up a minor storm on social media through its cheeky posters, which poke fun at the Central Board of Film Certification’s decision to give the movie an A (adults only) certificate.
One of the reasons for the certification: the movie has a female character who drinks liquor neat, without any mixers.
Ram told Scroll.in that he had no axe to grind with the censor board, but instead wanted to make audiences aware about what an A film actually signifies.
The film is said to be a quirky take on modern-day romance, and gets its name from Chennai’s Information Technology corridor. The director started filming Taramani as far back as 2013, and it will finally be out on August 11.
Ram, a former assistant of Rajkumar Santoshi and Balu Mahendra, made his directorial debut in 2007 with the critically acclaimed Kattradhu Tamizh (Learned Tamil), a critically acclaimed film about the descent of a Masters of Arts in Tamil literature graduate into madness. Then came the coming-of-age drama Thanga Meenkal (Gold Fish) in 2013, in which Ram also starred as the lead. It won three National Film Awards.
You’ve released two posters that take digs at the censor board for giving ‘Taramani’ an ‘A’ certificate. Is this your way of getting back at them?
It is not really a problem with the censor board. They said my film would get a U/A certificate if I adhered to the 14 cuts they asked me to do initially. For an A certificate, I had to remove the word “f****”. The earlier reasons included one of the female characters (played by Andrea) drinking alcohol without mixing anything, smoking twice and having a living-in relationship with her boyfriend. I decided to just remove the word ‘f***’ and take an A certification. Even if you remove it, people can still understand by lip-reading.
What are you trying to convey through these posters?
I am trying to tell the audience that an adult movie does not mean it is an erotic film. And it doesn’t mean that only men can watch it. It’s meant for women too. The only thing is they should be over 18 years old.
The problem in Tamil Nadu is once your film gets an A certificate, it becomes very hard to sell the satellite rights. It affects your business.
Did things get messy between you and the censor board during the process of certification?
We did not create any controversy with the censor board official in Chennai. In fact, we had a very good debate. It was very democratic. He understands cinema as an art. But you can’t expect the same from everyone who comes to watch the movie. They might not have such good exposure to cinema. They come from different walks of life and see it as a reflection of their lives. So the misunderstanding happens between them [the public], not with the censor board.
Who was this censor board official?
I don’t know his name. But he approached the movie in the right way. He treated it as a very contemporary piece of work and said that I should not go for cuts. He advised me to take an A certificate because he said he did not want to spoil my movie. He was worried that my artistic expression would be affected.
With the Goods and Services Tax, there are no extra taxes levied on A films like before. What are the other consequences you face?
The number of women coming to the movie will drop. For an A film, women always come along with men, they rarely come alone. But the men do not want to take their partners to an A movie. Because that is how the male psyche is. That is what I’m trying to convey in one of the posters. I’m trying to tell society that females are also adults.
Your family crowd is also gone. While getting satellite rights, you will have to re-censor the film, and the whole charm is taken away. But I went ahead because this movie is not meant for 13-year-old kids. I ended up pressuring my producer to take the A certificate as advised by the censor official.
Does this mean we will see fewer films about modern-day relationships in Tamil cinema?
Of course. Producers are completely unwilling to make an A-certified movie.
Does the censor board target only certain directors and let others get away with whatever they do?
No, nothing like that. I have done three movies now and have so far never received a negative vibe from the censor board in Chennai. Kattradhu Tamizh got a U/A, Thanga Meengal got a U and Taramani got an A.
An A certificate is good because that’s what this film is about. But if this happens again and again, then I will have to make movies only for kids. I can’t make movies that reflect today’s lifestyle. A movie is not something that is politically correct.
What about public reactions to your posters?
This moral policing has been on the rise. These people will have a knee-jerk reaction to some movie posters, but once they see the film, they will understand why it is like that. But this is not new. They have always been there. It’s just that they have new mediums and platforms to express themselves nowadays. I get to understand how the male psyche works through all this.
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