Five international films that angered Indians

Years before it became a slogan, the state demonstrated its firm belief in “Make in India” by viewing international film crews with great suspicion. More often than not, strangers are not encouraged to rummage in our garden. Some Western directors who have set up their projects in India have seen their films banned. The rhetoric that surrounds The girl from India – how British filmmaker Leslee Udwin obtained permission to shoot in Tihar prison, the footage of which she included in her film about an Indian tragedy – is not new. It is a repetition of the questions that greeted Louis Malle Phantom india and Roland Joffe City of Joy.

Here are a few overseas film projects that have struggled over the decades.

Phantom india

The girl from India This is not the first time that the British Broadcasting Corporation has come up against the government for “having ruined the image of the country abroad”. In 1969, the Beeb was struck by India for showing the famous observation documentary by French filmmaker Louis Malle Phantom india. Shot in 1968 over four months, and covering a range of themes and locations (religion, caste, ethnographic portraits, Mumbai, Chennai, Kolkata), Phantom india lasts 378 minutes and was broadcast on French and UK television in seven episodes. The documentary, says Erik Barnouw in Documentary: A History of the Non-Fiction Film, “Presented a breathtaking spectacle, filmed intimately, with love and horror, full of tantalizing fragments”. Barnouw adds: “To his sympathy, this was not a PR version of India.”

The Congressional government led by Indira Gandhi complained to the BBC for showing Phantom india UK. “The Indian community in London has started sending letters of protest to the British Broadcasting Corporation and the Indian High Commission,” writes Vijaya Mulay in From Rajahs and Yogis to Gandhi and beyond Images of India in international cinema in the 20th century. “The BBC refused and India ordered the BBC office in Delhi closed.” Phantom india has not been officially banned in India, Mulay points out, because it has never been submitted to the Central Board of Film Certification. The documentary was shown at festivals in India in the late 1990s, she adds.

India 57

Before Louis Malle, another great European director angered sections of the Indian establishment, and it had nothing to do with his cinema.

Italian filmmaker Roberto Rossellini arrived in India in 1957 to shoot what was to become India 57 (also known as India: Matru Bhumi). “Rossellini had planned to make a film in which, through several episodes, he would show how a vast newly liberated country like India, with an ancient civilization and culture, faced the problems of development and modernization without losing its tradition. and culture, ”writes Mulay.

The four-part documentary, which was completed in 1959, was a collaboration between Rossellini and the Films Division of India, which provided technicians and assistants to the project. Among the local performers for the 50-year-old director was filmmaker Harisadhan Dasgupta, who asked his 27-year-old wife to help Rossellini with the script for the documentary. The affair that developed between Rossellini and Sonali Dasgupta caused an uproar in the press and demands from Harisadhan Dasgupta that the Nehru government cancel Rossellini’s visa. Sonali and Rossellini left India and married in Italy later that year. The smell of running away with a married woman has crept in India 57, which was rarely screened in a country Rossellini admired for its non-violent freedom movement.

9 hours in Rama

The 1962 Stanley Wolpert novel Nine hours for Rama, a fictional reconstruction of Mahatma Gandhi’s assassination, has been banned in India due to a perceived insult to the Mahatma and an alleged soft pedal from the motives of his assassin, Nathuram Godse. The 1963 adaptation of the book by Mark Robson, titled 9 hours in Rama, suffers the same fate. The film has foreigners in most of the main parts (German actor Horst Buchcholz plays Godse, for example).

City of joy

Roland Joffe’s adaptation of Dominique Lapierre’s novel of the same name features Om Puri and Shabana Azmi as Calcutta slum dwellers and Patrick Swayze as a bleeding heart American doctor who leaves behind his cushy life to get out of the poor from their misery. The anger of the Bengali upper classes at seeing the lower abdomen of the city depicted on foreign screens was accompanied by violence in the streets when demonstrators disrupted the shooting in Calcutta in February 1991. A court banned the filming and Joffe and his team were able to resume production. only after the Kolkata High Court quashed the order.

Such a long journey

Canadian director Sturla Gunarsson’s 1998 film based on Rohinton Mistry’s famous novel of the same name was filmed in Mumbai, with an Indian cast (including Roshan Seth as Gustad Noble) and an Indian screenwriter (Sooni Taraporevala) . But he still managed to anger the Central Board of Film Certification. Set in the early 1970s in Indira Gandhi’s India, the book and film retrace Noble’s misadventures as he battles internal disappointments and is recruited by an intelligence agent to aid the Bengal liberation movement. Oriental. The CBFC awarded the film an Adult certificate, imposed 16 cuts on several political references, and also objected on the animal cruelty grounds to a sequence in which a chicken is held by its paws.

Mistry’s novel, which was written in 1991, was unofficially censored in 2010 after Shiv Sena youth wing leader Aditya Thackeray objected to its portrayal of the Maharashtrian community . Scion Thackeray’s campaign ensured that Such a long journey was removed from the University of Mumbai reading list.

Darcy J. Skinner

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