Telugu director Nandini Reddy feels filmmakers are gradually becoming soft targets of the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC), because of which cinema is being pushed back to the "dark ages".
Her forthcoming Telugu romantic-drama "Jabardasth", scheduled for release Friday, is a recent victim.
The words "Allah Allah" from a song in the film have been changed to "Halla Gulla" because the CBFC felt it could hurt the sentiments of the Muslim community.
"I understand the board has beefed up rules of censorship after the 'Vishwaroopam' controversy, but the song in my film is used in a familial context. They wanted us to replace the words 'Allah Allah' to 'Halla gulla' because they didn't want any Islamic reference in it," Reddy told IANS.
"I've been in Hyderabad for a very long time and I wouldn't do anything to hurt the sentiments of Muslims here, or anywhere else. I feel cinema is being pushed back to the dark ages because of such strict restriction to the freedom of expression," she added.
What issue did the CBFC exactly have with the song?
"They didn't have an issue with the song but for the two words ('Allah Allah'). According to a very senior professor of Islamic study from Osmania University, one can't dance to a song which has the word "Allah" in it. The same board, however, didn't have a problem with Hindi songs such as 'Mashallah' and 'Allah duhai hai'," she said.
Nevertheless, Reddy gave in - only because she was running out of time.
"Usually films get censored a week before the release of the film. I didn't want to give up, but we were cornered and they refused to accept. I was running out of time and there was a lot of financial pressure on me and therefore I succumbed to it," she said.
Kamal Haasan's Tamil and Telugu espionage thriller "Vishwaroopam" was banned in Tamil Nadu for two weeks after some Muslim groups complained some scenes in the movie portrayed their community in bad light. As a result, the Rs.95-crore film suffered losses, and released only after required cuts.
In such a scenario, Reddy feels her freedom of creativity is in danger.
"Hereafter, I would hesitate to even think of having an Islamic character in my film. Since the board also has issues with words such as 'corrupt' politicians and judges, I wouldn't even think of making a film against a political backdrop.
"I feel the censor board should hand over a textbook to all filmmakers on do's and don'ts of filmmaking", she added.
"Jabardasth" stars Siddharth and Samantha Ruth Prabhu in the lead. It is produced by Bellam Konda Suresh. The film is being dubbed in Tamil as "Dum Dum Pee Pee".