On December 4, when Pan Nalin’s Angry Indian Goddesses (AIG) released in India, the crew and cast received a fair share of accolades on social media. Overnight, blogs on the “female buddy” film came up, as did insightful pieces on the many issues it takes up. Interestingly, most of these posts and all the chatter around AIG also revolved around the senseless censorship that the movie underwent. The beeps and blurs in the film that got an A-certificate shocked many. After all, how offensive is the word “lunch”?
On December 7, the AIG team put up a 1:40 minute long video on Facebook on “all the XXXXX things the censors don’t want you to see”. From Anushka Manchanda commenting on “sarkar” — which was muted — to a poster of Goddess Kali, which appears as a blur of colours, the video shows all that the CBFC chopped and changed. “We just want people to see what they are missing out, and how harmless these words and images are. Irrespective of the A-certificate, what happened to our film was illogical and unfair,” says actor Sandhya Mridul, who plays Suranjana, a successful businesswoman in AIG.
Even in the credits, all the images of the various Hindu goddesses such as Lakshmi, Saraswati and Durga have been blurred. What remains is a smudge of colours, with archival photos of protests by women. When Pammi, a housewife played by newbie Pavleen Gujral, jokingly asks her friends not to be jealous of her “Indian figure”, the phrase is a long beep in the film. “We call this the ‘muted and blurred version’ of the film. There was a scene in which Sarah Jane-Dias, who plays a photographer, says ‘Saraswati mere mein hai’. We were asked by CBFC to cut it, and were categorically asked not to have any references related to goddesses throughout the film. It makes no sense,” says Nalin.
“Unaware” of the video doing the rounds on social media, CBFC chief Pahlaj Nihalani says, “They have made the cuts voluntarily”.
“Hurt” by the final cut, Nalin and team were further convinced about the Facebook video after going through the feedback they received. “Even after we put up the video, people asked us if this was real or we were just kidding. The public finds it equally hard to digest that such cuts have been made,” says Palin.
That fighting back was an option is something the filmmaker and his team have heard from people too many times in the last few days. “It’s an independently financed film, and we don’t have the time to go through that phase of reviews. We struggled to make the film, we struggled to sell the film, and now we just wanted it to get an India release finally,” says Mridul.