12 Years A Slave first US film to have full-frontal nudity cleared by India's censor board

The Wolf of Wall Street and Dallas Buyers Club have recently undergone edits

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The Independent Culture

Steve McQueen’s 12 Years A Slave has become the first US film featuring full-frontal nudity to be cleared by India’s censor board.

The slavery drama, nominated for nine Oscars, was originally set to be cut in nine places, but a revising committee decided that it could be shown to Indian audiences without further editing.

Anjum Rajabali, a spokesperson for India’s Central Board of Film Certification, told national daily DNA that 12 Years A Slave was given clearance “based on merit” after it was felt that cutting “necessary” scenes would “take away from the film itself”.

In 2012, however, producers of Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained were asked to edit two scenes that depicted nudity in similar contexts to those seen in McQueen’s film.

“The argument is that their culture is different from ours, so we should respect that and let their scenes go as they are,” filmmaker Mahesh Bhatt told the Hindustan Times. “I still remember how kissing scenes in Hollywood were shown in theatres, while in Bollywood movies, it was a hush-hush issue.”

Leela Samson, chair of the board, is in favour of rulings becoming more liberal. “This board has always interpreted certification guidelines in the most sensitive, liberal and progressive way, reflecting the maturing sensibilities of our audiences,” she said.

Tolerance has improved in India in recent years, but naked flesh is often still a deal-breaker when it comes to censorship. Martin Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street was subjected to nearly seven minutes of cuts before it was finally released with a strict adults-only certificate. Similarly, several sex scenes were edited from Dallas Buyers Club, which opens in India later this month.

Michael Fassbender, who plays a brutal plantation owner in 12 Years A Slave , previously said that the nude shots are important because “ that’s the reality of it”. “If we really want to do justice to [lead character] Solomon’s story, who are we to censor it?” he said.

12 Years A Slave tells  the true, harrowing story of New Yorker Solomon Northup, played by British actor Chiwetel Ejiofor, who was kidnapped and sold into the slave trade in 1841.

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Watch the trailer for 12 Years A Slave