tarantino just killed my brain…


i was flipping through my collection of films yesterday and chanced upon an entire bunch of adult films. now when i say adult, i’m not referring to the hormone busting x rated films with lollipop girls moaning along with jungle-gym men, but films that will never ever find a place in the indian multiplex. for instance, boys don’t cry is a biographical sketch about a transman who was brutally raped and murdered in america…around 1993. at the time of release, the film had stirred up a hornet’s nest for scenes that contained strong sexual content, drug use, gun-violence and ofcourse, the graphic portrayal of rape. for most foot-soldiers of morality, this film was something to be abandoned in the dark recesses of our culture and forgotten…such things don’t happen in this glorious country of ours…and even if they do, they are but the minutest of exceptions…must we make a big deal out of them? well, on the contrary, it is this very argument that makes it very important for such films to be given a breathing space. these films are not mere entertainers, but become historical documents of events and incidents that we want to bury and forget…of all those events and incidents that we ought NOT to bury and forget. films like boys don’t cry are uncomfortable to watch precisely because they document the fact that we have still not been able to come to terms with the whole idea of alternate sexuality…and that gender only finds meaning an ‘xy’ and ‘xx’…and that the possibility of permutations and combinations of the ‘x’ and the ‘y’ is clearly heresy.


one brilliant piece of work...


anyways, very few people have heard of the film in india. or let’s just put it this way – more people have heard of jurassic park than they have of boys don’t cry…and the censor board is squarely to blame for that. 

getting back to the point of this piece, jurassic park was a film that was released around the same time. now, this film was all about the advent of the digital age in film technology and a great visual fest where tyrannosaurus rex comes to life and goes on a feeding frenzy. this film made its millions in the box-office…opened to full houses in india…it was such a resounding success that it was also dubbed in other indian languages…i’ll never forget a scene from the hindi version where jeff goldblum, on spotting the t-rex starts to shout to the driver of his jeep to speed up jaldi karo…hai ram! badi chipkali humaare peeche pad chuki hai (hurry up…oh ram/god…the big lizard is now after us)…anyways, dubbing sidesplits aside, i particularly remember this film for a scene where a man is sitting on a commode in  a public toilet…a dinosaur knocks down the walls of the toilet…stares at the man…and then suddenly swallows half of him…it then goes on to shake its head either side till we hear a crunching crack and then the remaining dangling bit of the man is swallowed in entrirety. it’s interesting to note that this scene was NOT censored from the film…and our children watched it. it played numerous times in cinema halls and then on english movie channels and hindi channels and malyali channels and what have you…you’ll still catch jeff goldblum’s cracking voice and the cracking of other man’s spine in the film.

so what’s the inference? depictions of death and violence are ok as long as we know that they fundamentally stem from the power of cinema to suspend disbelief. ofcourse you won’t have t-rex trotting down the alley cracking skulls and spines…so don’t censor it. but if real events and incidents are replicated on screen, that’s a problem. chop the rape, even though it actually happened. snip off the bits that play on ideas of the body and desire…

it seems to me that realism is a very scary idea for culture at large… 

now here is a beautiful bit from the supreme court of india. enjoy:

 “…film censorship becomes necessary because a film motivates thought and action and assures a high degree of attention and retention as compared to the printed word. The combination of act and speech, sight and sound in semi darkness of the theatre with elimination of all distracting ideas will have a strong impact on the minds of the viewers and can affect emotions. Therefore, it has as much potential for evil as it has for good and has an equal potential to instill or cultivate violent or good behaviour. It cannot be equated with other modes of communication. Censorship by prior restraint is, therefore, not only desirable but also necessary…”

ok. if i were to take your logic forward supreme court, then aren’t members of the censor board witness to ‘evil’ every day of their tenure? isn’t every member of the board who watches films laced with violence, sex, drug abuse etc. etc. being ‘affected’ by such evil visual imagery? aren’t their minds being affected? should we not be bothered about their well being as well? or are they magically immune to all this? 

supreme court, in response to your judgement:

“dear sirs/ ma’ams, please note that till date, there is no scientific study or research that has been able to claim comprehensively that there is a direct relationship between tv/ film viewing habits and our social interactions and values. for instance, if watching pornography makes us all depraved then let me raise my hand and say that my friends and i have been social deviants since puberty slapped us in our faces…or other places. and if watching violent cinema results in a rise in the tendency to kill/ maim/ rape etc., then stanley kubrick and quentin tarantino should have been serial killers – they not only watched such stuff, but made such stuff.  and you claim that watching films in a cinema hall have much potential for good as they have for evil? ok…so when was the last time that you noted an increase in listing in our armed forces vis-a-vis the release of ‘patriotic’ films. gadar…bhagat singh…the likes have been releasing to box-office hits yet every year the number of officers joining the armed forces has been taking a nose dive. (very flawed argument i agree, but then it stems from a certain lack of logic displayed in the judgement above…) but how about this – the last ‘patriotic’ film infact, left a cinema hall in flames and many innocents dead…and your hallowed courts of justice gave the perpetrators a handful of months in jail. now THAT is cultivating violent behaviour…isn’t it? but what’s the point of carrying on this letter to you…i don’t even know whom to address this to…” 

this film has been modified for familiy viewing in india…thank you for making that change in the film on behalf of my family and me…and the many other thousand people who might be tuned in to watch the film. watching films with splits and dices will surely be wholesome family entertainment….

although the law of the land claims that censorship is desirable and necessary, i find it very difficult to digest that the people who lay claim over my morality and value systems are people i’ve never heard of, met or seen. who elects them? appoints them? they seem to have sweeping rights over the cinematic experiences of a billion strong and yet we have no say in their selection…they don’t have any idea about my cultural hsitory, my social ties, my profession, my likes and dislikes…so what gives them complete authority over my fundamental right to speech and expression? and at the end of the day, isn’t it my choice to go for mary poppins or the texas chainsaw massacre? i agree that you  you can’t take a 13 year old to watch a film like natural born killers and then discuss possible parallels between media pop culture and violence and similar hog wash…you can’t. you need to restrict audience to violence…sex…and other adult content. restrict it. censor it by giving it a rating and NOT slicing off the film. restrictions are ok. but the problem starts, specifically in a country like india, when restrictions are not enforced. in all the years spent going for films, many of them rated ‘u/a’ (children under 12 to be accompanied by adults) or ‘a’, there has not been a single instance where i’ve seen the cinema hall manager choosing to take a hard stand and not letting the children (read we have bunked school and come to watch the film with our friends…or the likes) into the hall. i guess that the economics of ticketing takes precedence over anything else.

having talked about unenforced restricted viewing, i also have a problem with the fact that our censor board (or most censor boards for that matter) has the most daft and inexplicable rating system. there is obviously no science or logic to it. harry potter and the goblet of fire shares the same rating with ghajini – u/a. yes, little wizards enlargening an opponent’s teeth with a densaugeo charm or making objects fly with the wingardium leviosa charm is as threatening to our young teens as a man suffering from amnesia and killing people by thrusting hand-pumps into their abdomens…but that debate is another story altogether. 

i love tarantino…morality guardians beware, i’ve been watching a lot of violent cinema since the age of 9…that’s over a decade and a half of unacceptable values and ‘evil’ pumped into me…should someone be making a pre-emptive arrest right about now?



and finally…why have i ended up writing two pages on something that was originally intended to last a paragraph or so?

…because it’s important to consistently voice your opinions in a country that upholds the letters of democracy, even though it might be sometimes all about banging your head against a wall, you never know when the cracks in the wall might appear… 

…because i claim to be a filmmaker and i should be able to make any kind of film, without having  to worry about what some unseen-unheard bunch of officials will think of my film…and then choose to delete from it, depending on their whims and fancies…even though those pieces may be the soul of my vision…

…and most importantly, because i hate having to watch films with obvious jumps, cuts, clips, dices and slices…


~ by mentalsyrup on January 18, 2009.

10 Responses to “tarantino just killed my brain…”

  1. Yeah i agree but this is what, i think the debate on censorship has been taken out of the realm of cinema, art literature. look at the State when it wants to ban images (not always live) of riots, terrorist attacks so that tensions do not escalate. now this is the same argument rehashed by the same agency when it wants to ban say a Fire/Deshdrohi/Bandit Queen, Hussain’s Saraswati or whatever right????
    How can i defend one against the other…?
    films, books get around..viva pirate masters…But political censorship and suppression of individual voices is maybe more lethal. And in many ways they are all the same. News stuff is not expression by the broadcaster but of individual but at the end of the day its an expression, a story and at heart of it information. Can info be really regulated, and should it be in the first place?
    Yeah i hate to watch films with cuts but i’d hurt to not ever see
    the anguish of riot- torn village or the tears of an angry relative whose young hotel mgmgt trainee son died in the attacks. Call me a voyeur, but it moved me to tears that story, it filled me with love for fellow human beings, that even if i don’t trust it…maybe non-violence is the way forward. I dunno.

    Maybe i should be censored from the Internet 🙂

    • nitin, very quickly – this post was fundamentally focussed on the cbfc…yeah while typing it, other similar themes kept creeping in and consciously chose to keep them at bay since this was primarily focussed on cinema in india.
      secondly, the censorship issue in broadcast media (specially post mumbai) is another debate altogether…
      also, the idea of political suppression is something to think about, but again, was consciously beyond the scope of this post…the larger bubble to burst…guess that this whole idea sort of opens up a can of worms everytime…
      and yeah, if you were censored from the net, you’d probably wilt away in 2 days…we all know why 😉

  2. Sorry sushmit, dint read the whole thing (in office) but got till the Jurassic park part.. and HAD to mention.. this one dialogue which was dubbed in hindi, one of the funniest things i’ve heard – In english one guy says, “Holy Shit” and in the hindi dubbed version it says “Pavitra Tatti”… hehehe.. NO kidding..!!!

  3. haahaaahaa!!! like dude…guess what a dialogue from T2 goes like…”mai tumhe dekh loonga khuni darinde…mai waapis aata hu…ram ram”
    no kidding!

  4. seriously.. please tell me the translated version.. i don’t necessarily trust Google Translate.. 😀

  5. Sushmit…. I found a bunch of films too….. Let’s swap some…. and get as many people to watch them…

  6. Sushmit…reading this post got me thinking (not bout the censor board coz i dnt know much but the indian audience in general)…in reality a boys don’t cry would not draw as much audience as a jurassic park…although the former is by far a better film…this is the indian audience…they want the yash chopra, karan johar big banners…the melo-drama, the song n dance (n now the latest trend of ‘item numbers’), and the happily ever after…where is the appreciation for good cinema?…films based on reality and hard hitting issues will not draw as much audiences as wud a big banner…or u’d have political parties objecting the release of such films or burning down theaters as u mentioned earlier…trash films like golmaal, rab ne, singh is king are rated as super hits…n a film like slumdog is now being slammed by mumbaikars(not forgetting Mr. Bachchan)..as a film that shows India mainly mumbai in poor light..n this wen the film is beyond the slums of mumbai..people look past the film maker’s vision of the film and concentrate on trivial issues like how the film could affect tourism in mumbai…for god’s sake!!!

  7. ritika – watched bits air-force one on star gold today. you’d have cracked up with it.

    aditi – which ones do you have in mind? you seen caligula? it’s wicked!

    jojo – good to see you here girl! aree with you, but then with big B, it sure does seem like a case of sour grapes! let’s hope that the next hollywood biggie would include him in their india-production…atleast then they’d be assured of his unflinching praise and support…

  8. reminds me of this speech which i was listening to some time back of this VHP rally (why? i dont remember anymore) neways so Sadhvi Rithambra came on and started off with something to the effect of i speak on behalf of all indian women and then went on to spew a whole load of shit about Muslim men, circumcision, not being man enough and so needing for them to follow like younger brothers to the hindu counterparts…
    apart from the general infuriating content of what she said i couldn’t help thinking hey! if there was a box such as indian women i would fall into it i dont remember giving you the authority to speak on my behalf!!!

  9. manmeet…look at what this indian ‘culture’ debate is leading us to…managlore…mumbai…it’s crazy…

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