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All About Films and Censors

Amita Malik

By Aruna Vasudev
Vikas, New Delhi, 1978, pp. 221, Rs. 40.00

VOLUME III NUMBER 3 November/December 1978

In the field of film writing, in India more verbiage has been devoted to discussing film censorship than perhaps any other topic except for the private lives of film stars. Acts, reports and other connected official documents have been briefly discussed, filed, put, and sometimes not put, before the public, thereafter, reactions have varied from individual film producers or directors fighting their own cases on matters of principle, but really in self-defence to the now familiar tit-bits about ‘to kiss or not to kiss’. Film writing in India, from columns to editorials, has occasionally devoted space and thought to the subject. But nowhere has there been a systematic effort to line up all this data, to illustrate it with factual documentation and to submit it to analysis. Aruna Vasudev, in her book Liberty and Licence in the Indian Cinema, which is a thesis for which she got her doctorate from the Sorbonne, has now, at last, provided students of the cinema, socio­logists and, hopefully, the film industry, with a meticulously researched, attractive­ly written and most helpful book on the subject of Indian film censorship, its origins and history, of individual fights for freedom and finally, provided us with the gloomy view that, whichever way one looks at it, neither the constitution of the censor boards, their way of functioning, the mindless bureaucrats who sit in final judgement on this frightening subject nor, indeed, the arbitrary and selfish last words of politicians in power on what is still as much an artistic as much as a moral issue, has changed much over the years. The Victorian and, indeed, purely colonial values which made the British institute censorship at all, and the equally lop-sided values which the gods that be continue to follow, with perhaps less justified Indian nuances to the present day, lead to one depressing conclusion after another. In the course of this brief review it is not possible to analyse each and every point. For one thing, Miss Vasudev has of necessity gone to various sources, writings and statements by others, and put together what has been done and said on the subject, since censorship is not a subject which allows one to be inventive or original in the literal sense. It is evident that the writer put in a lot of homework and worked very hard indeed to gather facts. In brief, she has devoted chapters ...

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