Indians were already watching the film long before it showed up at the Censor Board’s doorstep for certification.
The Central Board of Film Certification banned the release of Fifty Shades of Grey in India, a decision many had anticipated given the sexually explicit content of the film and the Board’s conservative nature since the appointment of Pahlaj Nihalani as its chief. The film adaptation of the best-selling 2011 novel stars Jamie Dornan and Dakota Johnson as a couple in a sadomasochistic relationship.
The ban has, however, done little to keep those interested from watching the film. As expected, the film’s ban has given a boost to piracy, with pirated DVDs of the film easily available in the market.
But Indians were watching the film long before it showed up at the Censor Board’s doorstep for certification. Variety reports that following its release on February 14, Fifty Shades of Grey was one of the most downloaded films online. Within three days of its release it was downloaded 300,000 across the world via torrent sites. While US and UK topped the list of countries with the most downloads of the film, India was third on the list with 19,298 downloaders with unique IP addresses. One can safely assume this number will only have increased in the weeks since.
The chief executive of the Censor Board, Shravan Kumar, declined to say why the panel refused to approve the film adaptation, but said Universal Pictures, the Comcast Corp unit that released the film, could appeal the decision. “It did not pass, but it is not unusual as many mainstream films don’t get clearance in the first step, people have the option to go for a revising committee’s opinion,” Kumar told PTI.
Universal Pictures submitted the film for certification, making voluntary edits to the film to tone down its sex scenes and removed all nudity. AFP reports that a source familiar with the review process said the board had objected to some of the film’s dialogue. The film had been refused certification with a 4-1 vote against it.
The film has grossed at least $400 million in global sales. India joined countries like Malaysia, Indonesia and Kenya in banning the film’s release. Comcast Corp did not pursue a theatrical release in China, the world’s second-largest film market, where the censors tend to ban sexually explicit films.
The Censor Board in India’s has already been at the receiving end of strong criticism in recent months. Leela Samson, who served several years as its chairman, quit in January after accusing the federal government of interfering in the board’s decisions. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government then unveiled a new censor board, which has since issued guidelines saying Indian films should not contain profanity. In the most recent instance, the board muted the word “lesbian” from the dialogue of the film Dum Laga Ke Haisha.