Udta Punjab is not the only movie hanging fire because the censor board believes it portrays a region in a bad light. Mohalla Assi, a movie made by Chandraprakash Dwivedi, who happens to be a member of the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC), has been denied certification for a similar reason.
Based on award-winning Hindi writer Kashinath Singh’s novel Kashi ka Assi, Mohalla Assi features actor Sunny Deol in the lead. The film was submitted to the CBFC on March 22, and on April 11, it was “refused certification” on several grounds.
The CBFC letter, which has been accessed by The Indian Express, states that the examining committee cannot issue a certificate to the film because it “is full of abusive words”. It also states that the film could hurt the sentiments “of a particular local area” and cause “low and order problem (sic)”.
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The letter has been signed by an office superintendent on behalf of the Mumbai regional officer.
Dwivedi was unavailable for comment but the film’s producer, Vinay Tiwari, said the board’s objections are unreasonable as the film is based on a literary work acknowledged and awarded by the Indian government.
“The book maps the day-to-day life of the people of Banaras, especially the neighbourhood called Assi. To abuse in every other sentence is their way of conversing, which is a form of endearment, not abuse. And that’s what Kashinath Singh’s writing also reflects,” Tiwari said.
Singh, a Sahitya Akademi award-winning writer, is known as one of the best chroniclers of Varanasi. His novel, Rehan Par Ragghu, set against the backdrop of the vibrant city, won him the prestigious literary award in 2011. However, his most celebrated work remains Kashi ka Assi (2008).
“How can one government agency award a work and another reject it?” said Tiwari. The filmmakers have now approached the CBFC Revising Committee in the hope of a favourable decision.
Tiwari also claimed the film’s fate may be tied to a disagreement between Dwivedi and CBFC chairperson Pahlaj Nihalani. “Dwivediji had earlier voiced his displeasure when Nihalaniji had banned cuss words in films. So, the director has ruffled feathers in this case,” Tiwari said.
The Indian Express has learnt that Dwivedi, to justify the use of abusive words in films, had submitted a paper to the CBFC around the time Nihalani banned such words. The paper explained how abuses are an integral part of speech across various languages and regions, and not a threat to Indian culture.