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Regular-article-logo Tuesday, 21 May 2024

The Bond you didn't see

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Amit Roy Takes You On A Tour Of The Sizzling Scenes That You Didn't See In Casino Royale Additional Reporting By Reena Martins In Mumbai And Anirban Das Mahapatra In Delhi Published 26.11.06, 12:00 AM

Sue Clark is a little surprised to hear that in India a couple of the love scenes in Casino Royale have been trimmed. “We had absolutely no problem with the sex scenes,” says the spokeswoman for the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC). “They were tame, quite chaste,” she adds.

In the UK, the BBFC has certified Casino Royale as 12A, which means children under 12 may see the movie if accompanied by an adult. It has been given 16 in the Netherlands, 15 plus in the Irish Republic and PG 13 in the US.

So far as India is concerned, Sharmila Tagore, chairman of the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC), points out: “We are a layered society, so what may be taken easily by an urban audience may not go down well with those watching the same film in suburban areas. Films such as James Bond are dubbed in several regional languages, and dubbed versions have a far greater reach in India than their English versions, and that often calls for constant vigilance.”

But just what are the two love making scenes plus another where James Bond is tortured that audiences in India have been denied?

The cuts were demanded not by the censors but volunteered by the distributors, Sony Pictures Releasing India (SPRI), which calculated that a U/A certificate, instead of an A rating, would attract a bigger audience — and hence more money.

Vinayak Azaad, regional officer for the censor board in Mumbai, comments: “We are not into moral policing. The cuts were suggested by Columbia Pictures. As a purely adult movie, we had cleared it earlier without any cuts.”

Taken with the 50-60 per cent reduction in the torture scene, the 2hr 20 min film has come down by two minutes.

Lalit Chetnani, chief finance officer for Sony Pictures, the distributors for Columbia, confirms: “We volunteered the cutting of the scenes as we wanted a U/A certificate for the film to open it to a larger audience. The censor board suggested that we reduce the intimate scenes to flashes and the torture scene by 60 per cent. The censor board, satisfied with what we had cut, gave us the U/A certificate.”

Since the film has taken in Rs 14.94 crores in the first three days, Sony might feel its strategy has been justified. Whether Sony executives should tamper with the artistic integrity of a piece of cinema or decide what adult Indians may or may not see are trickier questions.

In one of the intimate moments, Bond ends up rolling around on the carpet with Solange, a glamourous raven-haired beauty played by Caterina Murino, a 28-year-old actress who finished fourth in the 1996 Miss Italy contest.

Bond’s first vision of her is when he rises from the sea in excessively tight shorts in a scene reminiscent of Ursula Andress’s memorable emergence from the waves in Dr No.

A bikini-clad Solange is riding a white horse on the beach in the Bahamas when she notices Bond gazing at her. Later, they meet at the Ocean Club, the casino where Solange is given the brush off by her violent husband, Dimitrios, a criminal associate of Le Chiffre, banker to the world’s terrorist organisations and the movie’s principal villain (this is the role that Gulshan Grover had coveted).

Although he knows Solange is married, Bond asks her for a drink. She is not that corrupt, she replies. She must be out of practice, quips Bond. When she laughs and agrees to “just one drink,” we know what that means. The camera cuts to Bond on the carpet, tie undone, with Solange on top. She says she is afraid Bond will sleep with her only to get information on her husband. When her husband rings her mobile and says he has to leave town on business, Solange says Bond “can have all night to question me”. She rolls voluptuously on her back and spreads her legs wide while her skirt rides up her thighs. She sighs with anticipation.

“When he kisses me, when he makes love, he’s so sexy,” is Murino’s assessment of her co-actor.

Alas, Bond orders room service champagne only for one, abandons his one-night stand and leaves to chase her husband whom he subsequently kills. In retaliation, Le Chiffre has Solange murdered and her body tossed into a beachside hammock.

Bond’s easy conquest of Solange, a battered wife, is explained away by Murino: “A lot of women have been hit by their husbands. I take revenge by sleeping with James Bond. Nice revenge! If all women who’ve been hit by their husbands can resolve it in that way, it would be very nice.” (This is certainly a line of thought on which Rahul Mahajan’s wife, Shweta, may have an opinion.)

Bond’s relationship with Vesper Lynd, played by French actress Eva Green, 26, takes longer to reach consummation, partly because 007 falls in love with her. She is sent by the British treasury with the money to finance Bond’s gambling. Their first real love making takes place in a convalescent home where Bond is recovering after having been badly tortured by Le Chiffre. After a Bollywood-type soaking in the rain, they stagger into Bond’s bedroom, knock over furniture as they tear each other’s clothes off and tumble into bed. Later on, while they are sharing a hotel bedroom in Venice, Bond and Vesper are seen partly naked in bed. Bond keeps kissing her and is reluctant to let her out of his arms.

None of these scenes contravenes British censorship guidelines for 12A. “Nudity is allowed, but in a sexual context must be brief and discreet,” say the rules.

On sex, they stipulate: “Sexual activity may be implied. Sex references may reflect what is likely to be familiar to most adolescents but should not go beyond what is suitable for them.”

More problematic is the torture sequence where Bond, who has fallen into the clutches of Le Chiffre who wants the password to 007’s bank account, is trussed and pushed naked into a chair from which the wicker bottom has been cut out with a knife. Bond screams with pain when Le Chiffre swings a rope with a heavy knot at the end and repeatedly whips his victim’s private parts.

The scene is “surprisingly faithful to the violent and sometimes vicious original”, observes veteran critic Derek Malcolm, formerly of the Guardian and now with the Evening Standard in London.

Ian Fleming, the creator of Bond, died in 1964 but in a documentary, The Real Casino Royale, shown on BBC television last week, the author, who had a complicated relationship with women, is shown telling the interviewer: “I don’t admit to using sadism. I admit to using violence. It’s part of life.”

Fleming’s sex in Casino Royale is basic: “He (Bond) slipped his hands down to her (Vesper’s) swelling buttocks and gripped them fiercely, pressing the centres of their bodies together.”

Later, Bond dreams that “the conquest of her body, because of the central privacy in her, would each time have the sweet tang of rape”.

The pages on torture, when the naked Bond is slashed by Le Chiffre with “a three foot-long carpet-beater in twisted cane”, are written with conviction — and reflected in the movie.

“Bond’s whole body arched in an involuntary spasm,” goes the novel. “His face contracted in a soundless scream (in the film, Bond does scream).”

But Fleming demonstrates that the Englishman’s view of physical pain is curious. Bond, the reader learns, had been told by colleagues who had survived torture that “towards the end there came a wonderful period of warmth and languor leading into a sort of sexual delight and where hatred and fear of the torturers turned into a masochistic infatuation”.

The film’s co-writer, Robert Wade, defends the torture sequence as being essential to the story: “We tried to be as faithful to the novel as possible. You’ll see someone who gets completely broken down and has to rebuild himself. He forges the steel of his character through the emotional turmoil he goes through.”

In the UK, according to the BBFC’s Sue Clark, Casino Royale “was originally seen in an unfinished version, for advice as to the film’s suitability at 12A. The BBFC advised the company that the torture scene placed too much emphasis on both the infliction of pain and the sadism of the villain. When the completed version of the film was submitted for classification, reductions to the torture sequence had been made, including the removal of lingering shots of the rope, close shots of Bond’s facial reaction and the substitution of a more distant shot of the beating compared to the original version. This re-edited version of the scene was considered acceptable at 12A.”

There has been speculation that Aishwarya Rai, Priyanka Chopra and Lara Dutta were among actresses considered for the role of a Bond girl, if not the female lead. Had their love scenes been cut for India, there would have been much more of a demand to preserve artistic integrity.

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