Delhi Belly gives Nepal censors bellyache
TNN | Jul 4, 2011, 05.07pm IST
About six years ago, Mumbai threw a fit when Varanasi-based publisher Pilgrims Press published the "Diary of a tantric priestess", a not very good medley of sex and tantra by Briton Jack Bailey and his partner Marie Claire. The outraged Shiva Sena burnt copies of the book, apparently offended by the cover that showed the Buddha in an erotic pose.
In contrast, a cool Kathmandu took the book and its contents in its stride, welcoming with open arms Bailey, who professed to be the reincarnation of a Tibetan lama with the power to heal cancer and other dread diseases through sex.
Now, however, the boot is on the other foot with Maharashtra Navnirman Sena chief Raj Thackeray and his friends reportedly guffawing through a special screening of Aamir Khan's latest production, Delhi Belly, at the Ketnav theatre, while the powers that be in Nepal have halted the screening of the film, where four-letter words flow freely, on the ground that it is obscene.
Since Sunday evening, all the multiplexes and theatres showing the comedy directed by Abhinay Deo have shelved screening it after Nepal's Film Censor Board complained to the district administration that though they had recommended cuts in the film due to the profanities peppering the dialogue, the Nepali distributor was showing it without the changes.
On Sunday evening, police raided the Gopikrishna multiplex in Kathmandu whose owner Uddhav Poudel is the distributor of the film in Nepal and all theatres showing the film were warned off it till the censors' demands were met.
"There are three places mainly where censors have objected," said the staff of Guna Cinema, the multiplex in Lalitpur district that was showing "Delhi Belly" as well as the other new Bollywood release, Bbuddah hoga tera baap, and former Indian Idol Prashant Tamang's new film, Angalo yo maya ko. These scenes the censors found offensive include one in which Aamir's nephew Imran Khan visits a brothel, which the censors want out. Besides, there are two other scenes where nine-letter Hindi expletives have been used. However, the censors have not asked for these two scenes to be deleted, only the sound to be muted.
Theatre owners said the changes were being made. However, the technicalities would require some time, especially since making changes in the digital format would mean sending the film back to India. "We hope to start the screening from tomorrow," Guna Cinema staffers said.
The run-in with the censors is likely to whet the audience's appetite for the film that has already generated enthusiastic reviews in Nepal. Young Nepalis have begun to debate the censorship on social networking sites, clamouring for a rollback of the decision. "No censorship on Delhi Belly," wrote Phanindra Dahal, a journalist with the Kathmandu Post on his Facebook page. An avid Bollywood watcher, Dahal had managed to watch the film before the ban despite his college exams being round the corner. "The full version is sexy, filthy and entertaining." Sanjeev Giri agreed with him. "The movie is a complete entertainer and it should be showcased in the way it was," Giri wrote. "No censorship to (sic) Delhi Belly."
In the past, two Nepali films smarted under censors' scissors due to political reasons. During the 10-year Maoist insurgency, censors made Narayan Puri almost remake his "Aago" due to its sympathetic depiction of the armed uprising while during King Gyanendra's army-backed rule, Kathmandu-based Indian film director Tulsi Ghimire's "Balidaan", interpreted as sympathetic to the communist movement, was not allowed to be screened.
Bollywood's Chandni Chowk to China was also banned in Nepal in 2009 for a line in the narration that wrongly said the Buddha was born in India while in 2000, the Hrithik Roshan-starrer Mission Kashmir was banned after the local media whipped up an anti-Hrithik frenzy by attributing anti-Nepal sentiments to him falsely. The hysteria led to widespread violence known as the Hrthik Roshan riots, following which the star's films remained banned in Nepal for a long time.