At a conversation moderated by director Shashank Khaitan, called ‘Calling the shots’, at the 49th International Film Festival of India (IFFI) on 26 November, Leena Yadav spoke about the troubles she went through during the theatrical release of her film Parched (2016), which had received great response when it travelled to several film festivals abroad.
“When Parched was travelling at film festivals worldwide and winning accolades, a common question people there asked was, ‘Are people in India going to see the same film as the international audiences?’,” she said.
Parched revolves around four very different women, living in rural India, trying to cope with constant stress and fear because of a misogynistic culture.
“When we were called by the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC), we realized that they were slightly on the backfoot because of the awards that the film had won internationally,” she recounted. “They told us the film would be given an ‘A’ [adults only] rating, which we were fine with.”
Starring Tannishtha Chatterjee, Radhika Apte, Surveen Chawla and Lehar Khan, the film dealt with themes of patriarchy, dowry, child marriage, marital rape, and physical and emotional abuse.
There were a few sexual sequences in the film, and the director knew it would get an adults rating, but she also got some very awkward reactions from the CBFC members when she met them.
“Then they pointed at the chest area and said that ‘it’ will have to be removed, referring to the scenes involving frontal nudity,” Yadav recalled at the conversation. “I asked them, ‘What? Breasts?’ The panel members jumped in shock at my utterance of the word. It is sad that in a country that gave the world the Kamasutra, we are hesitant to talk about sex, because, well, you know, children in India are found in temples and sex has nothing to do with it.”
Yadav did not want to edit the ‘breast’ shot, as it was crucial to the narrative, but came to an agreement with the CBFC, and blurred it. She was happy that India finally did get to see the same film as the festival audiences though.
Watch Leena Yadav and her three spirited actresses redefine ‘bold’ and break down taboos about ‘breasts’ and ‘sex’ in an interview with Cinestaan.com at the time of the release of Parched.