Movie censorship

The bizarre link between Dev Anand’s ‘Censor’ and ‘Padmavati’

If only Sanjay Leela Bhansali had Dev Anand to defend his right to free expression.

In 2001, Dev Anand took on the Central Board of Film Certification, and we are still reeling from the effort.

Censor, which has been written, directed and produced by Anand, is the story of a celebrated filmmaker whose latest labour of love, titled Aanewala Kal, faces trouble in the form of suggested cuts and an adult certificate. Vikramjeet, better known by the youthful nickname Vicky, is outraged that the censor officials cannot comprehend the debates over inter-generational conflict tackled by his movie.

Vicky has also been informed by Hollywood actress Margaret Truman (Archana Puran Singh), who is not to be confused with the singer of the same name, that Aanewala Kal is worthy of qualifying as India’s entry as the best foreign language production at the Film Awards. Make no mistake: the reference here is quite clearly to the Oscars.

The censor board’s regional officer (Rekha) is unmoved by Vicky’s protests. Some of her examiners have an axe to grind with Vicky, including a writer (Jackie Shroff) and an actress (Mamta Kulkarni) who were rejected by Vicky and a conservative gent (Amrish Puri) who hates the filmmaker for trying to cast his daughter in his movie.

Censor (2001).

Vicky puts up a spirited fight. He takes his film to the Information and Broadcasting minister (Shivaji Satam), who, unfortunately, does not only concur with the certification, but also orders further cuts.

Vicky soldiers on. He smuggles a print of Aanewala Kal to Hollywood, where Margaret Truman enters it as India’s entry in the foreign language film category. Meanwhile, Vicky goes to court to continue his battle, where, before the judge (Shammi Kapoor), he makes a passionate plea for the right to the freedom of expression.

Vicky wins the award in Hollywood, of course – not one, but two (for best director). Back home, his achievements move the judge to return a verdict in his favour. Vicky becomes a national hero for having given India an honour it has been eyeing forever.

Vikramjeet wins an Oscar. Courtesy Navketan Films International.
Vikramjeet wins an Oscar. Courtesy Navketan Films International.

Suffused with tackiness and egregious writing and featuring Anand in peak unwitting self-caricature mode, Censor has no redeeming qualities except for one. Vicky’s courtoom defence of his right to make a movie the way he wants to is a rare instance of a filmmaker sticking out his neck for his tribe.

While arguing with Amrish Puri’s character, Vicky demolishes his opponent’s righteousness and hypocrisy. Vicky easily wins the argument over why Aanewala Kal has a bikini-clad character in a swimming pool, but his more skillful feints revolve around the complex question of a filmmaker’s right to pursue his vision.

When accused of not being touch with conventional morality, Vicky replies, I am as much a part of the same social fabric as the rest of you. Vulgarity is in the mind, he points out, and young audiences do not care for the ossified values of the previous generation. If 18-year Indians can vote, they have every right to watch movies with sensual scenes, he says. Can the movies be blamed for violence? He has a counter-question: should cinema be blamed for terrorist attacks and the violence resulting from the Partition?

Vicky’s trump card when told that the I&B minister wants to limit his film’s reach: a political party does not represent the desire of all Indians to watch what they please.

Rekha in Censor. Courtesy Navketan Films International.
Rekha in Censor. Courtesy Navketan Films International.

Many of the arguments in the movie apply to Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s beleaguered Padmavati, which is now at the mercy of the censor board and a parliamentary panel that is debating its depiction of fourteenth-century folklore. The criticism levelled at Vicky for smuggling out his film to America before it has been censored in India also holds true for Padmavati’s producers, who have been pilloried for screening the historical for television anchors and planning an international release.

If the distributors of Padmavati decide to release the film in foreign markets without waiting for domestic certification, they might want to quote Vicky’s views on the subject: the Indian censor board’s jurisdiction does not extend beyond the country’s borders.

Dev Anand made a bunch of bizarre films in his lifetime on whatever caught his fancy. Censor remains a singular attempt to demystify the process of certification and criticise the censor board’s overwhelming powers and paternalistic attitudes towards filmmakers. Only Dev Anand could have dreamt it up, and only he could have flubbed it so badly.

Support our journalism by paying for Scroll+ here. We welcome your comments at
Sponsored Content BY 

Bringing the glamour back to flying while keeping it affordable

The pleasure of air travel is back, courtesy of an airline in India.

Before dinner, fashionable women would retire to the powder room and suited-up men would indulge in hors d’oeuvres, surrounded by plush upholstery. A gourmet meal would soon follow, served in fine tableware. Flying, back in the day, was like an upscale party 35,000 feet up in the air.

The glamour of flying has been chronicled in Keith Lovegrove’s book titled ‘Airline: Style at 30,000 feet’. In his book, Lovegrove talks about how the mid-50s and 60s were a “fabulously glamorous time to fly in commercial airlines”. Back then, flying was reserved for the privileged and the luxuries played an important role in making travelling by air an exclusive experience.

Fast forward to the present day, where flying has become just another mode of transportation. In Mumbai, every 65 seconds an aircraft lands or takes off at the airport. The condition of today’s air travel is a cumulative result of the growth in the volume of fliers, the accessibility of buying an air ticket and the number of airlines in the industry/market.

Having relegated the romance of flying to the past, air travel today is close to hectic and borderline chaotic thanks to busy airports, packed flights with no leg room and unsatisfactory meals. With the skies dominated by frequent fliers and the experience having turned merely transactional and mundane, is it time to bid goodbye to whatever’s enjoyable in air travel?

With increased resources and better technology, one airline is proving that flying in today’s scenario can be a refreshing, enjoyable and affordable experience at the same time. Vistara offers India’s first and only experience of a three-cabin configuration. At a nominal premium, Vistara’s Premium Economy is also redefining the experience of flying with a host of features such as an exclusive cabin, 20% extra legroom, 4.5-inch recline, dedicated check-in counter and baggage delivery on priority. The best in class inflight dining offers a range of regional dishes, while also incorporating global culinary trends. Other industry-first features include Starbucks coffee on board and special assistance to solo women travellers, including preferred seating.

Vistara’s attempts to reduce the gap between affordability and luxury can also be experienced in the economy class with an above average seat pitch, complimentary selection of food and beverages and a choice of leading newspapers and publications along with an inflight magazine. Hospitality aboard Vistara is, moreover, reminiscent of Singapore Airlines’ famed service with a seal of Tata’s trust, thanks to its cabin crew trained to similarly high standards.

The era of style aboard a ‘flying boat’ seems long gone. However, airlines like Vistara are bringing back the allure of air travel. Continuing their campaign with Deepika Padukone as brand ambassador, the new video delivers a bolder and a more confident version of the same message - making flying feel new again. Watch the new Vistara video below. For your next trip, rekindle the joy of flying and book your tickets here.


This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Vistara and not by the Scroll editorial team.