'Bombay' to 'Khamoshi': How 90s movies would be received in today's political climate

Many of our favourite 90s classics would come to out to different responses in today's politically-charged climate.

The Indian censor board is a gift that keeps on giving. Earlier this year, you probably witnessed former CBFC chief Pahlaj Nihalani getting stuck in a lift with a TV reporter. It was oddly satisfying to see the self-appointed brand ambassador of sanskaar, being confronted in that cramped lift and asked why children needed to be protected from the words ‘sexual intercourse’ in Jab Harry Met Sejal.

Pahlaj Nihalani, censor board, censorship

He needlessly delayed Lipstick Under My Burkha because it was ‘lady-oriented’, and tried to ban Udta Punjab because it’s a known fact that no Indian state, especially Punjab, has a drug problem.

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The arrival of his successor Prasoon Joshi, was celebrated. But seeing the lack of initiative by Joshi’s CBFC to resolve the Padmavati controversy, indicates that he’s only a more sophisticated version of Nihalani. And recently, how they cowered to the I&B Ministry’s directive to shield the audience from ‘obscene movies’ like S Durga and Nude only makes a case for how far from ideal our political climate for alternative films currently is.

Looking at the ever-escalating nationalism/intolerance today, we tried to imagine the fate of some iconic Bollywood movies from the 90s if they had released today.

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Karan Arjun would surely be declared tax-free in all states, since the film championed the concept of rebirth – which we all know for a fact, is a real thing.

JP Dutta’s Border would get a Bharat Ratna. Sunny Deol would get a Paramvir Chakra. So what if it was only a film? It would be taken as a detailed, 3-hour lesson on why Pakistan is the enemy and should be hated.

Pardes would win the Best Film for National Integration, not before facing flak for a couple of lines. The word ‘shit’ would be replaced with ‘Gaumata’s gobar’.

We all know that Ramayan is real and that we should strive to the example of Ram, Laxman and Sita. Therefore Saajan would be declared blasphemous, because no two brothers can fall in love with the same woman.

For its overtly suggestive song Nimbooda nimbooda – Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam would be banned. Effectively also cutting him off long before he could ‘misinterpret history and bring dishonour’ to a community who placed all their eggs of wisdom/sanity in the basket of an imaginary historical character.

Everyone knows there are no words like ‘divorce’, ‘child custody’ or ‘domestic abuse’ in the lexicon of the Indian marriage. And that’s the reason Mansoor Khan’s Akele Hum Akele Tum wouldn’t see the light of the day. You can’t just fictionalise an Indian marriage with western tropes.

The plot for Mani Ratnam’s Bombay would be tweaked and Manisha Koirala’s character would become Hindu after marriage. The film would be hailed as a huge win and endorsement of ‘Ghar Wapsi’.

Khamoshi: The Musical, would probably be sent back from the CBFC office for showing Raj in love with Annie, a Christian girl from Goa. Moreover, what is with Raj impregnating an unmarried woman? Pre-marital sex PLUS pregnancy? This Sanjay Leela Bhansali is always bringing dishonour and hurting sentiments.

They are films that are there for entertainment purposes. I think, we should collectively speak out against censorship and endorse film certification. But then if  the release of mainstream Bollywood films cease to become a primetime headline, they would really have to answer for the poor 5.7% growth in the GDP.