India's censorship appeal board, the Film Certification Appellate Tribunal (FCAT) has overturned 10s of cuts specified by the CBFC before granting a music video a U/A (PG) certificate. The video, Miss You by Friends of Linger, would otherwise by A
(18) rated which would bar the film from TV, which was the whole point of the video.
In a period of around ten minutes on 25th January, the FCAT watched the video, read the appeal, discussed it, posed a few questions and then said the appeal was successful.
The FCAT in effect turned this tiny song into a moment that could be viewed as a shift in acceptance of gay content in mainstream television. However small the shift might be, it could well be an indication of something bigger that many LGBTQs are
hoping for. If we place this against the backdrop of hostility, hate, right-wing politics and the patiently-awaited Supreme Court verdict, the FCAT's conclusion to overturn a CBFC order is not very small. It could be a precedent, a filmmaker out of
Mumbai told me. Some gay activists felt the occasion should be celebrated and the song performed at gay parties.
The video is probably the first of its kind in the Indian context. Two men in love, the love lost to marriage and the recollection of a relationship is what made this video a story to tell. When Manav Malvai, the director, showed me the story-board, I
was sure we had a sensitive script. But the CBFC thought otherwise. In response to our mid-September (2016) application, we received an A certificate. Of course, this meant that the video would never get to TV in India. I did not accept this and filed an
application seeking a review.
The CBFC returned with a UA with cuts response on October 21 . What the censors found objectionable was a ten-second shot of two men -- Pran Saikia and myself -- lying in bed only in shorts. Mind you, we were neither making love or even hugging
each other. It was a scene of separation and hardly intimate -- a word used by the CBFC.
By then, even sections of the press hinted that the CBFC was homophobic but this was denied. At that time, Miss You had become incidental to what was a larger issue of acceptance of the LGBTQ community.
Finally, after viewing the video, the FCAT showed a fairness that one hopes is reflective of a changing time. They used the word sensitive to describe the video, relevant for its content and the ten seconds that the CBFC had wanted cut as
intrinsic to the narrative.