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To Be Seen or Not To Be Seen

Himadri Roy

By Monika Mehta
Permanent Black, Delhi, 2011, pp. 304, Rs.750.00


Right from the cover the book unfolds a discussion on the role of censorship and debates around the context of spectatorship of Bombay cinema. The designer Anuradha Roy has very artistically and craftily used images that may look vulgar and obscene and need scissors to curtail such depictions for the mass spectator. If one notices the jacket carefully, the publisher’s name Permanent Black figures like it has defined the stability of such psyche existing within the domain of the socio-political scenario of India. To be precise, the semiotic representation of the metaphor of sexuality and censorship has been highlighted very aesthetically. The blurb summarizes the topics dealt with in the book—from constructing the female body and sexuality in comparison to the national identity that has been thrust upon women and their role in the name of political culture and social convention. Mehta also focuses on the role of media in enhancing this debate of the imposed role of femininity, taking examples of four different films of different genre. In 'The Beginning' she outlines the relevance of several social structures in India. From Theresa Cronin to Nandana Bose, from media piracy to spectatorship, from regulatory authorities to censor board, from spectatorship to criticisms, Mehta tries to encapsulate all these topics within the alfresco of censorship. There is an in-depth look at the politicization of censorship in India, taking Aruna Vasudev and Someswar Bhowmik's works. As both the books deal with the paradigmatic structures of power and control, Mehta very craftily uses these tropes to inform her readers about the assertion of government power and keep the spectators under repressive conditions. Consequentially the information does not percolate in the exact dissemination kept in mind while making the films. She refers the methodological and theoretical investigation of Annette Kuhn's work and augments these as proper tools for a qualitative framework. The prominence she gives to these film theorists takes the book further in an uncomplicated fashion keeping the hierarchical and divided practice of censorship in this country when sexuality is to be portrayed through any given film. She familiarizes the reader with the issues relating to censorship when sexuality of Bombay cinema comes into the forefront. She even analyses the remarks made by K. K. Shah, former Minister of Information and Broadcasting. Words like maintaining a 'good society' in the Indian context is of vital importance. Mehta comments that the censor ...

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