INTERVIEW

‘It has been a long battle’: Sunny Deol’s ‘Mohalla Assi’ gets cleared for release after two years

Producer Vinay Tiwari speaks to Scroll.in after the film was cleared for released with an ‘A’ certificate after two years of struggle.

Following a two-year ordeal with censor diktats and legal tangles, Chandraprakash Dwivedi’s satirical drama Mohalla Assi, on the commercialisation of Varanasi, has been cleared for release with an ‘A’ certificate.

Starring Sunny Deol, Sakshi Tanwar and Ravi Kishan, Mohalla Assi is based on Kashinath Singh’s Hindi Novel Kashi Ka Assi (2004). Set against the backdrop of Varanasi in the early ’90s, the film explores the globalisation of the holy city and the influx of foreigners. “We are all very happy that after such a long time we have gotten victory. It has been a long battle.” Vinay Tiwari, the producer of the film told Scroll.in.

The Central Board of Film Certification, headed Pahlaj Nihalani at the time, refused to clear the film in March 2016 saying it was “highly derogatory of humans, cult, culture, religion including but not limited to mythology.” When the makers appealed to the censor board’s Film Certification Appellate Tribunal in November 2016, around 10 cuts and modifications were suggested before reconsideration.

But the producers were not going to take no for an answer. The filmmakers filed a writ petition in a Delhi High Court, which quashed the censor board’s decision in December and directed the board to certify the film with just one cut.

Play
Mohalla Assi.

The film, in which Deol play a Sanskrit teacher, ran into controversy when the trailer was launched in 2015. Through the prism of satire and comedy, the film tackles the Ram Janmabhoomi movement and the implementation of the Mandal Commission report recommending reservations for Other Backward Classes.

But the producer clarified that their intention was not to single out any historic incident. “We have not particularly targeted any of these events,” Tiwari said. “Our film is set through 1989 to the early nineties. So we have depicted whatever happened during that time period. The film is about the disruption that the foreigners cause in Varanasi in terms of its culture and environment.”

The CBFC demanded 10 cuts, objecting to the use of expletives and asking for every mention of the word “temple” and “toilet” to be removed. “If we had made those 10 cuts, our film would have been disrupted,” Tiwari said. “We went to the court and a long debate happened. But finally they cleared our film with just one cut.”

Tiwari said they now have to choose whether to cut or mute some of the contentious dialogue. “Our decision is pending and we are mostly going to mute it,” he said.

The mute was suggested on a slur that Deol’s character uses in the film, in reference to prayers and scriptures, Tiwari added.

The producer insisted that there is nothing offensive about the film. “The censor board raised concerns that the film would play with the religious sentiments of people,” Tiwari said. “I am a Brahmin myself. There is nothing in the film which is derogatory. In fact when a lot of the judges watched the film, they felt that there was nothing offensive in the film.”

Drawing parallels between other films that underwent a similar ordeal, Tiwari declared it should be up to the audience to decide if a film is offensive. “Look at what happened to Udta Punjab and Padmavat,” Tiwari said. “People will decide if there is a problem with a film. The censor board’s job is to issue certificates based on the content. If the board keeps issuing cuts, what will be left in the film?”

Tiwari said the judge of a movie should be its viewers. “We started making the film in 2011 and the film is releasing in 2018. The censor board should think about the effort that the filmmakers put into films. We should let the people decide.”

Mohalla Assi.
Mohalla Assi.
Support our journalism by subscribing to Scroll+ here. We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.
Sponsored Content BY 

What are racers made of?

Grit, strength and oodles of fearlessness.

Sportspersons are known for their superhuman discipline, single-minded determination and the will to overcome all obstacles. Biographies, films and documentaries have brought to the fore the behind-the-scenes reality of the sporting life. Being up at the crack of dawn, training without distraction, facing injuries with a brave face and recovering to fight for victory are scenes commonly associated with sportspersons.

Racers are no different. Behind their daredevilry lies the same history of dedication and discipline. Cornering on a sports bike or revving up sand dunes requires the utmost physical endurance, and racers invest heavily in it. It helps stave off fatigue and maintain alertness and reaction time. It also helps them get the most out of their racecraft - the entirety of a racer’s skill set, to which years of training are dedicated.

Racecraft begins with something as ‘simple’ as sitting on a racing bike; the correct stance is the key to control and manoeuvre the bike. Riding on a track – tarmac or dirt is a great deal different from riding on the streets. A momentary lapse of concentration can throw the rider into a career ending crash.

Physical skill and endurance apart, racers approach a race with the same analytical rigour as a student appearing in an exam. They conduct an extensive study of not just the track, but also everything around it - trees, marshal posts, tyre marks etc. It’s these reference points that help the racer make braking or turning decisions in the frenzy of a high-stakes competition.

The inevitability of a crash is a reality every racer lives with, and seeks to internalise this during their training. In the immediate aftermath of the crash, racers are trained to keep their eyes open to help the brain make crucial decisions to avoid collision with other racers or objects on the track. Racers that meet with accidents can be seen sliding across the track with their heads held up, in a bid to minimise injuries to the head.

But racecraft is, of course, only half the story. Racing as a profession continues to confound many, and racers have been traditionally misunderstood. Why would anyone want to pour their blood, sweat and tears into something so risky? Where do racers get the fearlessness to do laps at mind boggling speed or hurtle down a hill unassisted? What about the impact of high speeds on the body day after day, or the monotony of it all? Most importantly, why do racers race? The video below explores the question.

Play


The video features racing champions from the stable of TVS Racing, the racing arm of TVS Motor Company, which recently completed 35 years of competitive racing in India. TVS Racing has competed in international rallies and races across some of the toughest terrains - Dakar, Desert Storm, India Baja, Merzouga Rally - and in innumerable national championships. Its design and engineering inputs over the years have also influenced TVS Motors’ fleet in India. You can read more about TVS Racing here.

This article has been produced by Scroll Brand Studio on behalf of TVS Racing and not by the Scroll editorial team.