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Mural of Public Debate

Manjima Bhattacharjya

Edited by Brinda Bose
Women Unlimited (an associate of Kali for Women), New Delhi, 2006, pp. 332, Rs. 495.00

VOLUME XXXI NUMBER 10 October 2007

This is the fourth in the series by Women Unlimited on ‘Issues in Contemporary Indian Feminism’. Each volume so far, other than providing a range of excellent writing on key issues, has tried to explode the myth of a singular feminist position on an issue by bringing out the nuances of divergent positions within the women’s movement.   In this comprehensive hold-all, Brinda Bose (whose last edited volume Translating Desire was a beautifully produced set of essays on the representation of female desire in popular culture) collects censorship-related memorabilia primarily from the 1980s and 90s and packages it chronologically to present us with a remarkable compendium. It is an exhaustive haul; from the odd thought-piece to legal reviews to statements by NGO-combines to theory to government policy papers, Bose just about covers everything. Across the fields of law, political science, women’s studies, activism and media studies, this is a truly interdisciplinary selection.   Brinda Bose begins her Introduction by looking at two important events in 2004 which according to her created the conditions for a reformulation of debates around censorship. The first is the fall of the Hindu Right wing government, following which artists and activists realized that the clamp-down on freedom of speech and expression had not ended, but only changed form. The second is the series of scandals, ‘MMS scandal’ in particular, that ignited a new set of anxieties about sex and new technologies. The changing mediascape in which censorship of film (the traditional purview of the Censor Board) is inadequate to cover the multitude of outlets available today, whether the DVD or TV or mobile platforms, prompts Bose to ask very pertinently if it is ‘not time… to reconceptualize the contours of the battle, and re-identify the antagonists as well as the arrangements?’   With that, Bose cuts to a flashback. The first section, on laws, structures and guidelines, begins with an extract from the Report of the Working Group on National Film Policy 1980. The chapter articulates the historical logic of censorship in the Indian state and throws light on the procedures and powers of the government in setting up a Censor Board, calling for an open, dynamic and liberal approach to censorship over time. If in theory it sounds ideal, Manjunath Pendakur then looks at the practice by examining the actual interpretation and implementation of censorship policies through examples such as films Bombay and Bandit queen. His verdict ...

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