A few years ago, I was sitting on the couch in my home in India watching one of my favorite “One Tree Hill” scenes on television: Haley and Nathan’s first kiss. Except, I was actually not, because the Central Board of Film Certification, the censor board in India, had cut the kiss. I was enraged, and promised myself that I would some day write about it for some platform. Flash forward to this moment right now, and James Bond has given me the perfect excuse to do so. Why, you ask? Because in India, the kissing scenes in “Spectre,” the latest Bond film, have been cut short by the censor board.
I am annoyed and exasperated, but the Indian population has decided to be amused by this — they have created trending topic #SanskariJamesBond on Twitter. “Sanskari,” which translates from Hindi to mean “virtuous,” has been tacked on to tweets and edited images that are flooding the Internet as a mockery of the censor board. Admittedly, I laughed a lot as I read some of the creations because they truly captured the stupidity of the censor board. It got me thinking about humor as a tool of retaliation in this situation.
Voicing anger is a common action among the Indian population, and the censor board is probably accustomed to it. They are used to dealing with angry citizens whom they will paint as irrational. Sometimes, even when anger is justified, we tend to categorize it as unreasonable and chalk it up to short tempers. Hence, this humor is refreshing, eye-opening and much better suited to go viral on social media. The Internet is currently flooded with a version of James Bond that not only highlights every Indian stereotype, but also highlights everything that is wrong about Indian television.
Is humor, however, really a tool that the population is using to fight back, or is it the sign of a population that has given up? They understand that, try as they may, they will not be able to reverse the censor boards. They must just make light of an unpleasant situation. The population joins together in creating epic jokes that highlight their frustration, but also their defeat, because there is nothing else they can do. They cannot rant angrily because, at this point, cliché as it may seem, they just sound like a broken record.
In all honesty, I cannot tell which scenario it is. I can, however, share the way in which I would use humor: exasperation. After years of seeing cuts like these happen in films and on television, I have lost the ability to passionately advocate against it. In fact, when I even mention the topic of censorship near my family or friends I can see the dread in their eyes, awaiting my rant. Everybody is tired of hearing me talking about the misuse of censorship, but all of my bottled up rage that I have erupts into laughter when I see jokes about it. I have started laughing about it too when realize that I cannot currently do anything.
But I do not intend to laugh about it forever, and I am hoping that the Indian population does not do so either. Humor may signal a defeatist attitude, but it is also just a phase — one day there will be a generational change and shift in mentality. And I am hoping that when that happens, they remember #SanskariJamesBond, giggle a little and disapprove that future cut.