The Central Board of Film Certification has ordered that four scenes in the new James Bond film be trimmed, including at least two kisses between the lead actors, Daniel Craig and Monica Belluci.
The decision to reduce the length of the kissing scenes was trending on social media yesterday as Indians mocked the prudishness of film certification authorities.
Earlier this week the film certification board gave “Spectre” a U/A rating suggesting parental discretion for children under 12. The film will be released in theatres in India today.
Ashoke Pandit, a member of the censor board, confirmed that the kissing scenes had been cut, but insisted it was a decision taken in his “personal capacity” by India’s controversial censor board head Pahlaj Nihalani.
“Yes, this decision [to cut kissing scenes] was taken by Pahlaj Nihalani. He does these kind of things. Other shots have also been cut along with the kissing scene. This seems like a joke. If you do this to a James Bond film, then it’s shameful,” he said.
Mr Nihalani was appointed to the post in January, days after the previous head of the board Leela Samson resigned amid controversy over clearance for the film Messenger of God, citing “interference and coercion”.
Mr Nihalani refused to comment on the Bond film and his decision to cut short scenes.
Meanwhile, on Twitter, scores of Indians used the satirical hashtag SanskariJamesBond, or “traditional James Bond” to ridicule the cuts.
“James Bond’s women must be feeling so safe now that our Censor Board is there to protect their honour from that creep,” said Bollywood director and producer Shirish Kunder.
Compared to Hollywood, movie norms in India are extremely strict. Censorship authorities often order filmmakers - both Indian and foreign - to chop scenes deemed offensive. Films with graphic content can be barred completely. In years past, Indian filmmakers circumvented censors by showing two flowers bending and touching when they wanted to depict a kiss between the hero and heroine.
Public kissing is frowned upon in India’s conservative society, and even a peck on the cheek can upset some people. An arrest warrant was briefly issued for Hollywood star Richard Gere in 2007 after he kissed the cheek of Bollywood actress Shilpa Shetty at an AIDS awareness rally.
Indian movie directors and producers have grown fed up with what they see as curbs on their creativity. Many in India’s vibrant movie industry see the censorship board as an outdated and bureaucratic irritation and regularly push for censors to allow more. “It is quite ridiculous that in this day and age the censors should be cutting out or abbreviating something like a kissing scene from a film,” The Times of India newspaper said yesterday in an editorial about the Bond film. Cuts should be limited to scenes that might threaten public order “or where it transcends reasonable limits of vulgarity or violence,” it said.