Wednesday, February 04, 2015

Indian censors object to musician's use of 'Bombay' for Mumbai

When he released his first music video, the Mumbai-based musician Mihir Joshi understood that it would be reviewed by India's Central Board of Film Certification for obscene or offensive lyrics. When the board objected to a single word, he quickly agreed to part with it.

But he was flabbergasted to hear that the word was "Bombay."

The music video was broadcast on the MTV Indies cable channel over the weekend with the offending place name replaced with a bleep and blurred in the accompanying subtitle. "I have nothing against the word 'Mumbai,'" he added, a little plaintively. "I'm not calling it 'Constantinople' or 'Atlantis' or whatever."

He chose "Bombay" in the second line of the song, he said, because he needed a rhyme with "today." But by doing so, Joshi stumbled into one of India's many unresolved tugs of war over history and identity.

Mumbai, a word drawn from the Marathi language, has been the official legal name of Joshi's home city since 1995, when the nativist political party in power chose it to replace the Anglicised name Bombay, used since colonial times.

Not everyone adopted the new name, though. Some kept using Bombay out of long habit or institutional inertia - the city's stock exchange and its high court still bear the name, for example. Others stuck with Bombay as a political statement, rejecting what they considered xenophobic politics behind the change.

The film censor's decision drew considerable criticism and mockery on Monday, but the board's top official, Pahlaj Nihalani, said he stood by the decision, which was made by his predecessor. (Mr Nihalani became the board's chairman in January.)



Malcolm Smith said...

A contributor to the National Geographic found that every English speaking Indian in Mumbai called it Bombay. The same goes for Calcutta (Kolkatta).

Bird of Paradise said...

I guess the term BOMBAY(BOMB) Scares the beejasies out of anti-war 70's nambdiy pambdies