The censors displayed unprecedented liberality by passing an inherently violent story like "Paan Singh Tomar" with a 'UA' certification, which allows it to be a suitable watch under parental guidance. But it wasn't easy for director Tigmanshu Dhulia to get a clearance without toning down the language in the movie.
"Though the film is set in the Indian heartland and the characters speak a rough raw earthy bhasha, they don't use expletives as such. There is only one character played by veteran actor Rajendra Gupta, whose colourful language had the censorboard running for the scissors and gunning for the gaalis (abuses)," said a source close to the project.
Dhulia apparently had to fight tooth and nail to prove that cleaning-out the character's language would be tantamount to emasculating him. He had to wage a long battle, and still he had to finally expunge the expletives from the film, starring Irrfan Khan.
"There was a specially heated argument over one sequence towards the end where Irrfan's character is speaking to Gupta," said the source.
When contacted, Dhulia said: "Yes, the censor board did have a problem with Rajendra Guptaji's dialogues. He plays Irrfan's coach in the film. He uses a certain abuse in his language liberally and frequently.
"While I did agree to do away with most of the objectionable expletives, there's a scene towards the end when Irrfan visits his old coach, who asks, 'Why have you come to see me?' Irrfan says he's come to hear his gaali. Now, to not have a gaali here would be impossible. The whole sequence is based on the gaali."
Dhulia apparently argued his case. But the censor board was adamant, arguing that a 'UA' certification meant children would hear a member of the educational community abusing in a film.
Finally, Dhulia settled for a compromise, and tweaked the abuse.
"I had to make no cuts in my earlier film 'Saheb Biwi Aur Gangster' in spite of its sexual content because it got a straight 'A' certificate. In spite of the film's violent heart, the censor board agreed to give 'Paan Singh Tomar' a 'UA' certificate. That widens my audience spectrum. So then I had to make some adjustments.
Dhulia also had to alter some scenes showing the characters smoking.
"But that's okay. I'm just happy that the censor board is looking at a film with its given specific theme and milieu and not making arbitrary cuts," he added.
"Paan Singh Tomar" is a biopic on the former national steeplechase champion-turned-bandit. It released Friday.