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Ranbir butted, so how come Ranveer's butt was not cut in Befikre?

CBFC chief Pahlaj Nihalani explains how and why the fleeting scene came to be allowed, and says it is not the first time the board has cleared nudity under his watch.

Mayur Lookhar

From the time its first trailer was launched, Befikre has made news for its bold scenes and many lip-locks. Ranveer Singh and Vaani Kapoor certainly had a good time making the film. Fans were intrigued by shots in the 'Ude Dil Befikre' track where Singh is seen dancing in a cowboy hat and his underwear. There was also a shot of Singh and Kapoor being arrested with a blanket covering their modesty.

Despite the 'carefree' attitude of the film's cast and crew, at least some of the audience would have expected some of these scenes to be chopped in the film, given the recent track record of the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC), popularly known as the censor board.

However, they were in for a surprise – pleasant for some, not-so-pleasant for others – with a hot butt shot of Ranveer Singh in the film. Befikre hit theatres yesterday and while the film has largely received negative reviews, fans, especially women, are talking about the butt scene.

Apparently, the contentious scene is one in which Singh, after making out with an anonymous French girl, is holding a pillow over his modesty and then suddenly turns his back to the camera, revealing a fleeting glimpse of his butt.

This has led to questions about how the CBFC, chaired by Pahlaj Nihalani, cleared the scene. Nihalani and his team have often courted controversy for their tough stand on the use of profanity and explicit scenes in films. Anurag Kashyap and Ekta Kapoor had to even go to the courts to get their joint production Udta Punjab (2016) released.

The board had chopped Ranbir Kapoor and Aishwarya Rai Bachchan’s kissing scene from Ae Dil Hai Mushkil (2016), and, earlier, a long kiss from Spectre (2015) and Ranbir Kapoor and Deepika Padukone’s kiss in Tamasha (2015). So, it was natural for fans and members of the industry to be surprised when the same CBFC cleared Befikre with a U/A certificate without any cuts.

An industry source claimed that the CBFC, too, was shocked that the butt scene was screened in theatres. “I was informed by a CBFC source that they are shocked how this scene made its way into the final print," the source said. "There is talk among members of an inquiry."

Nihalani, however, rubbished talk of any inquiry, and explained how and why the scene was allowed. “Firstly, contrary to what has been reported, it is untrue that we didn’t have any cuts in the film," the CBFC chairman said. "In fact we have cut 50% of the scenes which the board deemed unsuitable for theatrical viewing."

Nihalani said the board members had a two-hour discussion with director Aditya Chopra and only after that did they arrive at a decision to show less than a second of the butt scene. "We have cut 98% of the particular shot and what you have seen is less than a second,” he said.

Nihalani said similar scenes were cut in the past by the CBFC, but no one questioned the board then. He also revealed that this was not the first time the board under his leadership had cleared such scenes.

“We have shown frontal nudity in The Danish Girl (2015)," he said. "Similarly, we didn’t cut the bare-butt scene in Bridget Jones’s Baby (2016). So, it’s not that we are being partial to any production house."

The CBFC chairman said two films cannot just be compared. "Each film is different," he explained. "Each content has to be looked upon accordingly. One needs to take into account how a scene is presented. The intention of the director, how the scene impacts the movie, all that needs to be considered. You also need to gauge how it could impact the audience."

The industry veteran also revealed that a whole lot of scenes from Befikre were cut. “We were unanimous in all the decisions we took," he said. "Because the film had too many kissing scenes, we couldn’t cut them all. We have cut 20-30 shots which we felt were obscene. However, to maintain continuity, we have trimmed those scenes. About 50% of the climax [kissing] scene was cut; we have cut the same-sex kissing scenes. For the satellite airing, we have cut a lot of scenes. We will not allow the title track 'Ude Dil Befikre’ to be aired on TV.”

To buttress his point, Nihalani cited the case of innumerable young couples who indulge in a public display of affection at popular locales in Mumbai. “We don’t object to young couples kissing at Bandra or Worli sea shore. So why should we not show such scenes in our films?” he argued.

It may be recalled that Ranbir Kapoor’s famous butt scene from Saawariya (2007) was axed by the board, which was then chaired by Sharmila Tagore. Again, in 2005, Yash Raj Films had released Neal ‘n’ Nikki, a film which had quite a few explicit scenes, featuring Uday Chopra and Tanisha Mukherji, with a 'U/A' certificate when, the same year, Mahesh Bhatt’s Kalyug, which dealt with a pornography racket and had just one intimate scene, was given an 'A' certificate.

So, it is natural to wonder if the board is more favourably disposed towards YRF. Nihalani was quick to dispel the notion. “Whosoever is guilty will feel the need to oppose and make noise," he remarked. "There is no partiality towards anyone. I try to do my work sincerely. People who talk of the CBFC killing freedom of expression, why do they chop the contentious scenes for satellite viewing after we have given them an 'A' certificate? Aren’t they killing their own freedom of expression? They are not concerned with freedom of  expression, only with revenue,” he thundered.