Sridhar Rangayan is a gay activist, makes movies on issues confronting the community and is delighted with the Delhi High Court order decriminalising consensual gay sex between adults. Now, he feels it's high time the censor board also updates
its rule book.
Rangayan has made three films on homosexuality -- the first is still lying with the censor board, the second he did not bother to submit for certification at all and the third has been accepted by the Central Board of Film Certification but with
an 'A' [adult] certificate.
The censor board has rules which are antiquated and it's not accepting today's trend. I think it's time to fight to get the censor board rules changed. What we need is to have some young people as part of the core committee, Rangayan told
In 2003, he made Pink Mirror , which is said to be India's first film on drag queens. Though it has been screened at various NGO meets, it has yet to be screened in India: I approached the censor board thrice for the certificate and
every time they rejected the movie. There is no nudity, titillation in my film. I have depicted my characters very sensitively, still I didn't get the certificate .
They had strange reasons to reject the film. They say that I have not depicted the gay community in good light. It was funny because I'm know the community very well. They wanted my characters to be apologetic for being gay. They wanted me to
show characters crying and asking why god has made them like this, said Rangayan, who is founder of the Mumbai-based The Humsafar Trust that advocates gender and sexuality issues.
When Rangayan made his second film Yours Emotionally in 2006, he didn't bother to take it to the censor board and instead it screens it at NGO meets. The film is about two best friends - Ravi and Paul. The two come to India on a vacation
and attend an all night gay party. Surprised by the openness of their hosts and the aggressiveness of the guests, the boys fall into the steadily growing Indian gay culture.
His third film 68 Pages , however, has got an A-certificate from the board and he is hoping for a commercial release.
Another director who has made a film on the issue is Ashish Sawhny. His Happy Hookers is a documentary that explores the secret world of male sex workers in the country.
Then there is US-based Indian filmmaker Manan Singh Katohora's When Kiran Met Karen . It is about a Bollywood actress called Kiran who is on the verge of becoming an international movie star until she meets sexy magazine journalist Karen
and they find themselves swept up in a torrid affair.
None of these films have been released in India. As Rangayan says, perhaps we will have to wait till the censor board changes it rules.
India's gay community have celebrated a small victory over the film censors of the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC).
India's censorship appeal board, the Film Certification Appellate Tribunal (FCAT) has overturned 10s of cuts specified by the CBFC before granting a music video a U/A (PG) certificate. The video, Miss You by Friends of Linger, would
otherwise by A (18) rated which would bar the film from TV, which was the whole point of the video.
In a period of around ten minutes on 25th January, the FCAT watched the video, read the appeal, discussed it, posed a few questions and then said the appeal was successful.
The band's front man, Sharif Ranganekar, wrote:
The FCAT in effect turned this tiny song into a moment that could be viewed as a shift in acceptance of gay content in mainstream television. However small the shift might be, it could well be an indication of something bigger that many
LGBTQs are hoping for. If we place this against the backdrop of hostility, hate, right-wing politics and the patiently-awaited Supreme Court verdict, the FCAT's conclusion to overturn a CBFC order is not very small. It could be a precedent, a
filmmaker out of Mumbai told me. Some gay activists felt the occasion should be celebrated and the song performed at gay parties.
The video is probably the first of its kind in the Indian context. Two men in love, the love lost to marriage and the recollection of a relationship is what made this video a story to tell. When Manav Malvai, the director, showed me the
story-board, I was sure we had a sensitive script. But the CBFC thought otherwise. In response to our mid-September (2016) application, we received an A certificate. Of course, this meant that the video would never get to TV in India. I did not
accept this and filed an application seeking a review.
The CBFC returned with a UA with cuts response on October 21 . What the censors found objectionable was a ten-second shot of two men -- Pran Saikia and myself -- lying in bed only in shorts. Mind you, we were neither making love or even
hugging each other. It was a scene of separation and hardly intimate -- a word used by the CBFC.
By then, even sections of the press hinted that the CBFC was homophobic but this was denied. At that time, Miss You had become incidental to what was a larger issue of acceptance of the LGBTQ community.
Finally, after viewing the video, the FCAT showed a fairness that one hopes is reflective of a changing time. They used the word sensitive to describe the video, relevant for its content and the ten seconds that the CBFC had wanted
cut as intrinsic to the narrative.