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Savita Bhabhi’s big screen battle with censorship
SHWETA SHARMA  20th Apr 2013

A still from the Savita Bhabhi movie

ven as the Supreme Court reacts to the Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed by advocate Vjay Panjawani seeking amendment of existing laws to make watching pornography a non-bailable offence, Puneet Agarwal — better known as Deshmukh — creator of the adult online comic series Savita Bhabhi is gearing up for the release of an eponymously titled film next month.

"It's uncanny that this comes out a couple of weeks before the release of the movie because this is exactly what the Savita Bhabhi movie is about! The movie which is set in 2070 tells the story of an imaginary India where censorship is rampant and the government dictates what everybody does and watches. If the attention seeking lawyers who put forth the PIL get what they want, then the movie might just change from fiction to fact," he says over email.

The movie deals with the issue of Internet censorship, free speech, freedom of choice and how Savita Bhabhi fights it in her own unique way. Its summary on the website reads: "India, 2070. The world has changed a lot. Freedom of speech has taken a hit to the nuts and censorship is everywhere. Citizens seem to have accepted it. But one man, his fat nerdy friend and the hottest fictional character India has ever seen are not about to take the injustice lying down!"

Scheduled to be premiered on 4 May, according to Deshmukh, the movie will be a roller coaster ride through different dimensions, sex and bringing down bad guys. "Our Bhabhi who has for years now found herself in precarious situations, finds herself in the most precarious situation of all. She not only has to find a way to get herself out if it, but also help out the two best friends Suraj and Hari and save the world in the process," he says. He further adds that it is also a movie with a message. "It's time Savita fought back against the people who banned her!" he says.

One of the recurring requests of fans was to elevate Savita Bhabhi to the next medium, from still comics to a movie. We are finally in a financial situation to invest in a movie —Puneet Agarwal

According to Deshmukh, the recent case of the young girl who was jailed for a Facebook post exemplifies his reason for choosing censorship as the subject for the movie. "Savita has always been at the forefront of the fight against Internet censorship, and in support of freedom of speech. In the movie, she is put into a situation where she has to both help herself and the two young men who put her into the predicament in the first place."

Savita Bhabhi who made her first appearance on the Internet in 2008, was banned by the Indian government in 2009. Reacting to this move, Deshmukh says: "To be honest I was shocked. I never thought that the government with so many more important things to manage; would be spending their time trying to shut down a site based on a toon character. In a way though it was validation for our work — if you've created something that Big Brother thinks is ban-worthy, then you know you've made a statement and that was our aim."

But it's been five years since the ban, what prompted the making of a movie now? "In the past five years that Savita Bhabhi has been alive, our fans have supported us wholeheartedly. One of the recurring requests of fans was to elevate Savita Bhabhi to the next medium, from still comics to a movie. We were finally in a financial situation to invest in a movie and so as a way of giving back to the fans, we embarked on this project," he explains.

Despite the buzz it has created, Deshmukh is all set to face expected criticism. However, he is not fazed as he believes that the story needs to be told. And with this determination, he is targeting India with the initial release.

"Since it's going to be fairly difficult to get theatres to show our movie in India, we have embarked on a very novel concept for the premiere. For the first time ever in India a premiere will be streamed live at a particular date and time. All our VIP ticket holders will be given access to watch the live streaming. We are in talks with some US and UK distributors to release the movie in cinemas. We will also be entering it into some film festivals, but since this is in a very early stage, there are no concrete details to share," he says.

The movie will be in Hindi, and after its initial release, Deshmukh plans to dub it in various other Indian languages, and English for international audiences.

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