India cuts 'anti-war' film

An India anti-war film about nuclear testing and the 11 September atrocities has been ordered to undergo heavy cuts before it can be released.
Just weeks after India and Pakistan pulled back from the brink of war, a documentary from controversial director Anand Patwardhan has been deemed too provocative by the country's film censors.

War and Peace features scenes depicting the euphoria surrounding the first successful nuclear tests in 1998 and the planes flying into New York's World Trade Center.

The cuts that they asked for are so ridiculous that they won't hold up in court

Anand Patwardhan
Critics have argued the decision to order the cuts is an attempt to control the Indian media in favour of the ruling coalition government led by Hindu nationalists.

The country's Central Board of Film Certification said the film "may have the effect of desensitising or dehumanising people".

But Patwardhan says if any cuts were made to the three-hour film it would ruin it.

He is appealing to the Appellate Tribunal in New Delhi.

The board has previously tried to censor Patwardhan's documentaries, which are usually socially or politically-focused, but all of his appeals havebeen successful.

Freedom of expression

"The cuts that they asked for are so ridiculous that they won't hold up in court," he said.

"But if these cuts do make it, it will be the end of freedom of expression in the Indian media."

War and Peace features some of the jubilant scenes that met the secret nuclear testing, with footage showing the praise heaped on Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

The film also covers the consequences of nuclear bombs and the effects of Hindu fundamentalism on the country.

It picked up an award at the state-run Bombay International Film Festival in February.

Scenes that could be stripped include footage of Mohandas Gandhi minutes before he was shot in 1948, and pictures of Hindus slashing their hands to sign their names on messages of congratulations for the nuclear tests.


Mahesh Bhatt, one of India's most respected film-makers, called the censor board's demands "shameful".

"It is appalling that the land that deifies Gandhi makes it so difficult for a man like Patwardhan, who articulates the same values that Gandhi dreamed for India," Bhatt said.

"The sanity of his film, it just undermines the war hysteria that they've whipped up."

Patwardhan argues in War and Peace that nuclear weapons are not a deterrent to war.

However, others believe if it had not been for their nuclear arsenals then India and Pakistan would have gone to war.

"The film challenges the macho notion that India needs nuclear bombs," said Patwardhan.

"What happened on 11 September proved that you don't need nuclear weapons, all you need are boxcutters."

English success

Meanwhile, the Indian movie industry is witnessing a flood of English-speaking films being released on the back of the 2001 success of Monsoon Wedding.

Football movie Bend it Like Beckham, from Indian director Gurvinder Chadha, is the second biggest money-spinner of the year behind Devdas.

Hoping to make a challenge on Bend it Like Beckham's success is Everybody Says I'm Fine, which has an Indian cast and English script.

A raft of Indian-made English language films are lined up for release in the coming months, including Stumble, Mango Souffle and Dance Like a Man.

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