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16 Banned Bollywood Movies Worth Watching

16 Banned Bollywood Movies Worth Watching

Banned Bollywood Movies

The Indian film industry has mostly steered clear of social and political matters for the big screen. In a country like ours, these subjects rarely come without controversy. But every once in a while, there comes a filmmaker who chooses to tell her/his story in their unique voice — brave, fearless and more importantly, unfettered by consequences. That is, until our Indian Censor Board steps in. But most of these have endured the test of such trials and eventually go on to make a mark. Here are 16 banned Bollywood movies worth watching.

Most of these eventually did see light of the day, some even becoming landmark films in their respective genres.

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1. Garam Hawa (1973)

Director: M.S. Sathyu

An iconic piece of work in M.S. Sathyu’s filmography (and his directorial debut), Garm Hawa chronicles a Muslim family’s travails post the 1947 Partition. For the fear that the film could create communal tension, the Censor Board help up the release for 10 months. After much trouble, the film finally released, after the director organised a personal screening for the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.

Garam Hawa had a limited release at first (in Bangalore). Later, it was released in Mumbai and the rest of India. It went on a win a National Award for Best Feature Film on National Integration. The film gained even more recognition internationally. It premiered in Paris and in 1974, competed at the Cannes Film Festival.

Where to Watch: YouTube


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2. Aandhi (1975)

Director: Gulzar

banned hindi film aandhi
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This political drama courted much controversy for allegedly, being based on the life of then-Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, and her relationship with her ex-husband. In truth, the only inspiration the film took from Gandhi’s life was her look and attire. Aandhi was not allowed a full release during Indira Gandhi’s time in charge. The film was banned during the national emergency of 1975, a few months after its release. Several parts had to be reshot, including a controversial drinking scene, to establish that Aandhi was not a biopic. After the general election of 1977, which Indira Gandhi lost, the film was re-released. It achieved massive success, winning the Filmfare Critics Award for Best Movie.

Where to Watch: YouTube

Recommended: 14 Top Bollywood Movies You Won’t Believe Flopped

3. Kissa Kursi Ka (1977)

Director: Amrit Nahata

Amrit Nahata’s Kissa Kursa Ka is a satirical take on the political career of Indira Gandhi and her son Sanjay Gandhi. As expected, it wasn’t taken well by the Indian Government. The Emergency period between 1975 and 1977 is regarded as a very mysterious time during Gandhi’s reign as Prime Minister. The fact that the Right to Freedom of Press was curtailed during this time made it very difficult for sociologists and analysts to dissect that era due to the lack of news and information, seeing that the Government controlled the entire press. Consequently, the Indian Government banned the film and confiscated all the prints.

A committee, which was formed to investigate any excesses committed during the Emergency period, found Sanjay Gandhi guilty of burning the negatives of the film, along with V. C. Shukla, Information and Broadcasting minister of the time. They were later sentenced to a month and two-year jail term imprisonments respectively. The verdict was later overturned.

Nahata remade the political satire and released it in 1978, retaining the script and most of the cast.

Trivia – Nahata’s son is now planning a sequel, which will focus on the excesses of Indira Gandhi’s rule in the 70s and detail the manner in which the original movie was removed from public gaze. (Source:

Where to Watch: YouTube

4. Bandit Queen (1994)

Director: Shekhar Kapur

bandit queen movie banned
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Shekhar Kapoor’s biographical drama is a tragic account of a lower-caste rebel who takes to a life of crime. Despite not being historically accurate, it’s an examination of caste discrimination, suffering and the lives of women of so-called ‘backwards caste’ in India.

The film received critical acclaim at the 1994 Cannes Film Festival, and at the 1995 New Directors New Films Festival in New York. But the real-life Phoolan Devi sued to prevent the release of the film, which had also been banned by the Indian censors, fiercely disputing its accuracy. She went as far as to threaten to immolate herself outside a theater if the film wasn’t withdrawn. The rape scenes and the Behmai village scene where she’s forced to walk naked up to the well, include some of those.

Where to Watch: YouTube

5. Black Friday (2004)

Director: Anurag Kashyap

Black friday movie anurag kashyap
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Black Friday, possibly Anurag Kashyap’s best, based on a book of the same name, chronicles the events that led up to the infamous 1993 Bombay blasts and the subsequent police investigation. While the docudrama received critical acclaim from both national and international audiences alike, it wasn’t without controversy. Black Friday was due to screen in India on December 29, 2005. But after a petition filed by one of the accused in the 1993 blasts, Mustaq Moosa Tarani, the Bombay High Court raised a ban.

The court allowed a release 20 months later in 2006, post the verdict.

Where to Watch: YouTube

Similar to Banned Bollywood Movies: 13 Super Engrossing Indian Courtroom Dramas

6. Firaaq (2008)

Director: Nandita Das

firaaq movie gujarat riots
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Firaaq, directed by Nandita Das, examines the aftermath of 2002 Gujarat riots in India. It showcases the horror a society undergoes after communal harmony is broken loose. The film weaves in multiple story lines that follow the lives of a range of characters: a Muslim-hating Hindu whose wife is haunted by the ghost of the riots; a Hindu-hating Muslim who hopelessly plans revenge; a mixed marriage couple rethinking their decision to move to Delhi post riots and a Muslim child who has recently lost his parents to the riots. Nandita Das manages to put together characters of a similar mindset on both sides of the equation. It wasn’t a controversial film at all but a pure human interest story that doesn’t sympathize with a particular community. (By Amritt Rukhaiyaar)

Where to Watch: Amazon Prime

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7. Fire (1996)

Director: Deepa Mehta

shabana azmi nandita sen fire

The first movie in Deepa Mehta’s acclaimed Elements trilogy, Fire received a lot of backlash from certain groups in India. Fire dealt with the relationship between two female lovers, and was one of the first Bollywood films that explicitly dealt with homosexuality. Despite being passed uncut by the Indian Censor Board, with an Adult rating, many religious groups protested against the movie and its themes. This set about a flurry of public dialogue surrounding the movie, related to homosexuality and freedom of expression.

Fire was eventually re-released without cuts by the Censor Board on February 12, 1999.

Where to Watch: YouTube

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8. Inshallah Football (2010)

Director: Ashvin Kumar

banned Bollywood movies

One for the the football fans. This documentary by Ashvin Kumar narrates the struggle of an 18-year old aspiring Kashmiri footballer Basharat, who is denied a passport because his father Bashir Baba is an ex-militant.

Basharat Baba, a talented teen soccer player is invited to train with a Brazilian club but struggles to acquire a passport because his father was a Pakistan-trained militant. Under Kumar’s expert guidance, the documentary manages to capture the heart and soul of Indian-occupied Kashmir, as well as the ongoing power struggles, which Basharat had to endure as a child.

As expected with anything politically sensitive, the film faced considerable difficulties in getting the required certificate so that it could be screened in India. The main stumbling block was the content of the film itself, since it dealt with the sensitive and highly political subject of how the Indian armed forces had conducted themselves in Kashmir.

Oddly, the film was awarded with an ‘Adult’ certificate after much debate and difficulty, despite not showing content like nudity or graphic violence. The given explanation for awarding such a certificate was “characters talking about graphic details of physical and mental torture they had to undergo. The theme of the film is mature and some dialogues can be psychologically damaging for non-adult audience.”

But Ashvin Kumar’s reasoning was that the censorship would avoid any sort of embarrassment to the Indian Government with regard to the conduct of the armed forces in Kashmir. So much for Freedom of Expression.

Where to Watch: YouTube (Paid)

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9. Urf Professor (2001)

Director: Pankaj Advani

banned Bollywood movies

Pankaj Advani’s Urf Professor starring Manoj Pahwa, Antara Mali and Sharman Joshi faced much heat from the Censor Board. In this Pulp Fiction-esque universe full of hitmen and assassins, a horrified husband after hearing of his newly-wed wife’s array of sexual conquests now wants her dead. He proceeds to hire a hitman, known only as The Professor. One of his least accessible works on the Internet, the movie is a seriously underrated gem and is a treat for cinephiles, especially Tarantino fans.

Where to Watch: YouTube

10. The Pink Mirror (2003)

Director: Sridhar Rangayan

The much-maligned subject of transsexualism is a misunderstood and over-ridiculed topic to this day. The Pink Mirror, directed by Sridhar Rangayan, is said to be the first Indian film to focus on Indian transsexuals. The Indian Express’ review of Pink Mirror was this: ‘This is more than just the “peeping into the closet” that Rangayan intended. It’s almost throwing the doors wide open for the world to look in!’

The Pink Mirror was banned by the Indian Censor Board in 2003, citing that the film was ‘vulgar and offensive.’ However, it gained critical acclaim outside India and won awards at international film festivals. It won the Jury Award for Best Feature in New York and the Best Film of the Festival, Question de Genre Lille, in France. The Pink Mirror remains banned by the Censor Board even today.

However, in 2017, Netflix was added in Netflix for the world to watch. No Censor Board to stop them this time.

11. Paanch (2003)

Director: Anurag Kashyap

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The Martin Scorsese of Indian cinema, Anurag Kashyap’s films are rarely without contoversy, and his crime thriller Paanch was no different. The film was said to be ‘loosely’ based on the Joshi-Abhiyankar serial murders committed by 4 commercial art students between January 1976 and March 1977 in Pune. This was Kashyap’s first feature film. The film was heavily criticized for its graphic violence, drug abuse and use of bad language. The film was cleared in 2001 for release after a few cuts, but since the producer faced problems with the release, it never got going. However, it was screened in several film festivals.

Where to Watch: YouTube

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12. Parzania (2005)

Director: Rahul Dholakia

Another brave and heartbreaking film on the Gujarat riots of 2002, starring Naseeruddin Shah and Sarika in the lead roles, the film is inspired by the true story of a ten-year-old Parsi boy, Azhar Mody, played in the film as Parzaan Pithawala in the film. The film centers on the family of Parzaan and the search for their son. This gem of a movie gives a depiction of the bloodlust lurking between the semblance of calm during the 2002 Gujarat riots.

Where to Watch: Hotstar

13. Amu (2005)

Director: Shonali Bose

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A 21 year old Indian American Sikh girl travels back to India after graduating from college to visit her relatives. She discovers her adoptive parents never told her the full truth about what happened to her biological parents years ago. The film takes a look into the Anti-Sikh riots of 1984 from the perspective of a college graduate.

The film gives a raw, detailed account of the Anti-Sikh riots of 1984, with Shonali Bose holding nothing back as the viewer is forced to watch the carnage of the 1984 film riots as well as its repercussions.

The censor board created much noise at the time of its release issuing it an A-certificate, cutting out a few scenes, 10 minutes approximately, but the film-makers gave a raw, unpeppered account of all that had happened in their DVD version in 2008. However it was not allowed to be shown on TV.

Where to Watch: YouTube

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14. Gandu (2010)

Director: Qaushik Mukerjee

banned Bollywood movies
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Gandu, which is also the nickname of the protagonist in the film, focuses on the life of a frustrated teenager, part of a struggling rap band, who struggles to find meaning in his life. The indie film transitions from black-and-white to colour symbolising the shift in the protagonist’s state of mind and bleak existence to a newer, changed outlook.

Gandu was met with extremely positive reviews from international film critics, and was screened at various film festivals. Variety called it “a happily transgressive rhyme-fueled romp”. The film’s soundtrack garnered rave reviews as well, composed by the Calcutta-based alternative rock band Five Little Indians.

In India, however, Gandu caused some controversy for its offensive visuals and language. Thanks to the controversy, the film did not have its first public screening in India until 2012 at the Osian Film Festival.

Where to Watch: Netflix

15. Lipstick Under My Burkha (2016)

Director: Alankrita Srivastava

banned Bollywood movies
Image Source: Public Seminar

The burkha is meant to be a piece of outer clothing worn to prevent or obviate temptations of the flesh. Lipstick Under My Burkha is Alankrita Shrivastava’s rebellious but even-toned black comedy that explores women’s sexuality. Safe to say the title of the film is rebellious in itself. The film recieved positive reviews from both Indian and international critics, many of them praising the well-written characters as well as the excellent narrative, which holds a mirror to our society’s ugliness. The film won numerous awards at several film festivals all around the world.

Initially, the film was denied a certificate on the grounds that the film contained “contagious sexual scenes, abusive words, audio pornography and a bit sensitive touch about one particular section of society.” On appeal to the FCAT (Film Certificate Appellate Tribunal), the tribunal raised a set of issues concerning the uncut version of the film, due to which the filmmakers approved 16 cuts that addressed these issues.

After a few more cuts to the film, it was finally awarded an ‘A’ certificate and was authorized to release in theatres. Shrivastava, in an interview, said that that despite her wish to have more cuts, the FCAT were fair and reasonable, and the film was released without affecting the narrative or hampering the essence of the film in any way.

Where to Watch: Amazon Prime

‘Lipstick Under My Burkha’ Review: Of Dreams, Desires and Defiance

Notable mention

16. Nine Hours To Rama (1963)

Director: Mark Robson

Despite not being an Indian film, this movie makes the list as it centres on Mahatma Gandhi and the man behind his assassination on the fateful evening of January 30, 1948. The film is a fictionalised depiction of the events that led up to the incident. No points for guessing why the Censor Board banned the film.

Where to Watch: YouTube

By Aditya Sarma

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