Nepal censors up in arms against 'orphans'
May 6, 2007 - 7:38:46 AM

Kathmandu, May 6 - Nepali film director Shovit Basnet has become the latest casualty of the new administration with his new film 'Barood' - meaning gunpowder in Nepali - being held up by the censor board.

'It's utterly ridiculous,' says a fuming Basnet. 'My film has been held up for three weeks now because the censors have taken exception to two words in a dialogue and want me to remove them.'

The two offending words, neither of them four-lettered, are 'anaath' and 'tuhuro', both of which mean orphan. The feature film, starring Nepal's Hrithik Roshan, action hero Nikhil Upreti, and martial arts expert Rajendra Khadgi, takes on corrupt politicians, whose excesses with the help of security forces drives a mad man to challenge them. Eventually, he wins the battle for justice.

Since the pro-democracy movement in 1990, there have been several films on the rot in the country's political system, and Basnet says that's not the reason why his film has been canned.

Though Basnet doesn't say it, one probable reason is the formation of a new government last month. On April 1, Nepal's Maoist guerrillas joined the seven-party ruling alliance, signalling a formal end to their decade-old insurgency that killed over 11,000 people.

The civil war left thousands of children orphaned and displaced. Over 300 minors were killed and hundreds injured. The UN says the Maoists' People's Liberation Army included a large number of under-18s.

The Maoists exercise strong control over both parliament and the government, forcing their coalition partners to turn a blind eye to cadres' misdeeds.

The Maoists control the information and communications ministry. But Basnet says he is not going to erase the offending words.

'I could easily delete the two words and get a certificate,' he says. 'But if I do that, I will be paving the way for other high-handed diktats.

'We've come a long way with our struggle for democracy. How can we make quality films if we are still kept on a tight leash?'

The 32-year-old director has made nine films earlier, including one on Nepal's army. This is the first time he faced trouble with the censors. 'Several things are wrong with the censor board,' he says. 'At least 10 to 12 people are supposed to see a film before it is issued a certificate.

'But in most cases, only a couple of people do the actual viewing and then too it is uncertain if they have seen the whole film.

'The main purpose of the censors is to pocket the NRS 1,400 they get for each viewing and then push off.'

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