As much as we wish that things were different, India doesn’t exactly have the best track record when it comes to letting people exercise their freedom of expression. Over the years, things only seem to be getting worse, with comedians getting locked up for cracking jokes and people on the internet trolling anyone and everyone who doesn’t adhere to their ideological stance. With this list, we look back at 21 banned Bollywood movies that didn’t sit well with the Central Board of Film Certification.
Aandhi follows the story of a politician’s daughter and a hotel manager who get married after they fall in love, but due to unfavourable circumstances, decide to separate. The movie was released during turbulent times – only months before the national emergency of 1975 – which is why it was especially risky to market the movie as somewhat inspired by the then prime minister, Indira Gandhi. Before its release, rumours were rife that the movie was based on the politician’s life, and the movie went on and used it as a marketing gimmick. It obviously wasn’t the brightest idea, since the movie ended up being banned 26 weeks after its release.
2. Bandit Queen
Bandit Queen follows the story of Phoolan Devi, a dacoit who later became a human rights activist. Even though praised by critics, Phoolan Devi herself was furious upon the movie’s release; she questioned the accuracy of the movie, and demanded 40,000 pounds in reparations. Shekhar Kapur, the director of the movie, was accused of exploiting Phoolan Devi’s trauma by restaging her rape on screen while she was still alive.
3. Black Friday
Based on a book by Hussain Zaidi called Black Friday: The True Story of the Bombay Bomb Blasts, Anurag Kashyap’s Black Friday follows the events leading to the blasts, and the ensuing investigation by Mumbai Police. After the group accused of orchestrating the blasts filed a petition to stop the movie from releasing, the Bombay High Court banned the movie until the final verdict on the case was out. The movie was only able to secure a release 20 months later, in 2007, after the verdict was announced.
Loosely based on Ismat Chughtai’s Urdu short story, Lihaaf, Fire follows the story of two women who form a passionately erotic relationship against the norms of Indian society. At first, an uncut version of Fire was released. However, after three weeks of its running, one of the theatres screening the movie was stormed by over 200 Shiv Sainiks, who apparently thought the movie sent a message against the institution of marriage. Similar incidents happened around the country, prompting theatres to stop screening the movie. However, a group of film personalities submitted a petition to the government, requesting protection. Shortly after, the movie was re-released.
6. Garam Hava
Garam Hava follows the story of a Muslim family in India, who, after the partition, struggle for its rights in India. The movie was held back by Central Board for several months, as authorities feared it might create unrest. It was tentatively released in two theatres, and upon positive reception, it was allowed a nationwide release. Bal Thackeray had threatened to burn down the theatre if the movie was premiered because he believed it was pro-Muslim and Anti-India. However, once he was invited for a special screening, he allowed the movie to be released.
9. Hawa Aney De
Hawa Aney De follows the life of two working-class boys struggling to make ends meet. Even though the movie didn’t have anything too controversial, the censor board demanded too many cuts that would reduce the length of the movie by almost 20 minutes. The director refused to comply, and the movie was never released in India.
10. Inshallah Football
Inshallah Football is a documentary following the story of an aspiring Kashmiri footballer unable to travel overseas because his father was a militant leader. The movie was denied the required censor certificate because of the sensitive subject it covered. Eventually, it received an A certificate which is unusual for documentaries. The Board stated that since there were dialogues in the movie that verbally depicted brutal violence and it wasn’t fit for a younger audience.
11. Kama Sutra
The movie follows the story of a princess and her maid-servant in 16th century India, who grow up to become rivals. The movie borrows its name from the ancient Indian text in Sanskrit which is a world-renowned book on sexuality and eroticism. However, modern India apparently cannot keep up with the progressiveness of our ancestors, and Kama Sutra became one of the many banned Bollywood movies for its sexual themes.
12. Kissa Kursee Ka
In Kissa Kursee Ka, two rival parties are at opposing ends during an election. However, things go for a toss when a third party enters the election. The movie is a satirical commentary on Indira Gandhi and Sanjay Gandhi’s politics. During the emergency, the movie was banned and prints of the movie were confiscated and burnt.
13. Lipstick Under My Burkha
Lipstick Under My Burkha follows the secret lives of four women looking for their freedom. The movie was denied a censor certificate by the board because of the sexual nature of some of its scenes and abusive words used in the movie. After several cuts, the movie was given an A certificate.
14. Main Hoon Rajnikanth
Initially titled Main Hoon Rajnikanth, the makers of Main Hoon (Part-Time) Killer were forced to change the name of the movie after actor Rajnikanth filed a petition in the Madras high court to stop the movie’s release because of the use of his own name. The movie was supposed to release in 2014, but was only allowed a release in 2015 after the director changed its name. The movie never released in South India at all, as the filmmakers were afraid of running into legal troubles again.
15. Mohalla Assi
Loosely based on Dr Kashi Nath Singh’s Kissa Assi Ka, Mohalla Assi follows the story of a priest in Varanasi who decides to take a stand when he notices locals manipulating foreign tourists. The movie also touches upon themes like Ram Janmabhoomi and Mandal commission. The movie’s release was delayed for three years because an FIR was filed in Varanasi against the actors for using abusive language in the movie, accusing them of hurting religious sentiments. Eventually, the movie released with an A certificate after one cut was made.
Nasbandi is a satirical comedy about forcible sterilizations by the Indira Gandhi government during the emergency. The movie was banned following its release because of its portrayal of Indira Gandhi and her policies. After Indian National Congress went out of power, the ban was lifted, and the movie amassed a sizable viewership through home video and satellite broadcast.
Loosely based on the Joshi-Abhyankar serial murders in Pune, Paanch is a crime thriller by Anurag Kashyap. Because of its use of violence, portrayal of drug abuse, and use of abusive language, the movie never received a theatrical or home video release, joining the long list of banned Bollywood movies. However, the movie premiered at several film festivals.
18. The Pink Mirror
The Pink Mirror follows the story of two drag queens competing against a gay teenager to earn a man’s affections. Even though the movie was screened at various film festivals, The Pink Mirror is one of the many banned Bollywood movies to never release in India. It was banned by the Censor Board which deemed it vulgar and offensive.
Inspired by Faiz Ahmed Faiz’s poem “Ye Dagh Dagh Ujala” Unfreedom‘s director was advised to make several cuts in the movie, who refused to comply. Consequently, the Board decided to ban the movie. The director argued that the Board should have given it a certificate it deemed fit instead of suggesting cuts. The movie explored the themes of sexuality and Islamic extremism.
20. Urf Professor
Urf professor is a black comedy that follows the events that unfold after a hitman’s car and a winning lottery go missing. The Censor Board disliked the abusive language and bold scenes of the movie and consequently banned it.
Water follows the story of a child bride who is sent to an ashram after her husband’s sudden death where she is required to atone for her sins. The film is the final instalment in Deepa Mehta’s Elements Trilogy. The production of the movie came to a standstill when far-right Hindu organisations disrupted the shoot and destroyed the sets. The UP government put a ban on the movie’s shooting. Consequently, the set was moved to Sri Lanka, where the rest of the movie was shot.
How many of these banned Bollywood movies have you watched? Comment below to let us know!