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Censored, Restricted "Amu" Set to Release in India


A.F.P., Dec. 11, 2004

Photo: Amu

US-based Shonali Bose is set to release a film next month depicting anti-Sikh riots that hit India following the assassination of then prime minister Indira Gandhi in 1984, after accepting cuts demanded by Indian censors.

She told A.F.P. that Amu, based on her novel of the same name has been shot in English and cleared for release in India by the Central Board of Film Certification.

Amu tells the story of an orphan named Kaju, adopted and brought up in Los Angeles by American parents, who returns to India to discover her roots and finds that her real parents were killed during the anti-Sikh riots.

The riots were triggered after Gandhi was shot dead by her Sikh bodyguards in revenge for her ordering the storming of the Sikhs' holiest shrine, the Golden Temple in Amritsar, by army forces seeking to evict separatists using it as a sanctuary.

Kaju's voyage of self-discovery takes her from the mustard fields of rural India to the killing fields of New Delhi during the 1984 riots and reveals the mystery of her past in a searing climax. More than 2,000 Sikhs were killed in the riots, mainly in New Delhi.

Actress Konkona Sen Sharma plays the role of Kaju.

She won a national award in 2003 for best actress in a critically acclaimed film Mr. and Mrs. Iyer by director Aparna Sen about a Hindu woman who protects a Muslim passenger facing assault on a bus by claiming him as her husband.

The latest film's hard-hitting dialogue however came in for cuts demanded by the censor board, Bose said.

The board vets feature and documentary films and advertising shorts to check content deemed anti-national, anti-minority, excessively violent or sexually exploitative.

'I was told that dialogue which speaks of violence against minority communities was not allowed in the film,' Bose said.

The board however left most visuals intact such as killings and mob violence, she said.

It did cut some scenes of a widow blaming the government for turning a blind eye during the anti-Sikh riots and also to some extent encouraging it.

Indira Gandhi's son, Rajiv, who took over as prime minister after her death remarked during the riots that 'when a mighty tree falls, the ground will shake.' Rajiv Gandhi was himself assassinated in 1991 by Sri Lankan Tamil separatists.

The board also cut some anti-minority remarks and criticisms of India's judicial system, Bose said.

'The film had to go through some cuts despite my strong protests and arguments that the dialogue depicted what actually was said at that time,' she said.

She said the censors awarded an adult certificate for the film. The board certifies films in three categories - 'A' for movies eligible for viewers above 18 years of age, 'U/A' for parental guidance and 'U' for universal audience.

'I had asked for a parental guidance certification but the board said that since this is not well-known history, there is no reason for young people to be told about it,' Bose said.

However, she said, she accepted the cuts as the basic message of the film would still be powerful.

'I think it will be as powerful as the first version and I also felt that I might run the risk of bigger cuts if I fought the censors,' she said.

Produced on a budget of 30 million rupees (680,000 dollars), the film has been written, directed and produced by Bose.

Amu will be screened at an international film festival in southern India's Kerala state later this month and released nationwide on January 7.