CinemaScope: When an one-actor film was given ‘For Adults Only’ certificate
Artwork by Bobby Sing

The internet revolution revived many exceptional projects like Yaadein, which were either forgotten or rarely talked about in newspapers and magazines in print towards the end of the last century. A first of its kind, daring, innovative and experimental attempt by Sunil Dutt, this was a film releasing in 1965, which truly surprised both the industry as well as the viewers.

A never before kind of unique attempt, Yaadein had a soliloquy performance by a single actor on screen enacted by Sunil Dutt. A black and white classic widely appreciated in the festival circuit as well as by the critics, it was the directorial debut of Dutt under the banner of Ajanta Arts. The attempt is still novel in the new millennium as it has only one actor talking to himself and the characters he assumes in a single set for around two hours of duration creating a record in the world of cinematic adaptations of stories and ideas.

As a film, Yaadein has many worth-mentioning merits in its technical department including the intelligent use of background score, images, voice-overs and more visual expressions. But, they have already been written about in length in various books and articles. So this is about some unusual facts associated with the brave attempt that have been rarely presented before related to its basic thought process, its censor certificate and Dutt’s satirical response to it through news magazine advertisements.

Winner of a National Award and two Filmfare awards for its cinematography and sound design, the film was actually based on a story by Nargis (Mrs. Sunil Dutt) inspired by a quote from Manu Smriti. The quote also gets stated in the opening credits as: “The homes where women are respected are visited by Gods to their delight. But where women are not respected, even the good actions of other members become fruitless.”

The film got released in the first week of February in 1965, but before that it had a very interesting publicity campaign as a series of full-page advertisements published throughout the month of January in the reputed Screen film news magazine.

The campaign began with a poster mentioning all the released and upcoming projects of Ajanta Arts, including Yeh Rastey Hain Pyar Ke, Mujhe Jeene Do, Yaadein, Chemmeen, The Outsider and Massiah (The Christ); but unfortunately the last three got shelved. The second week had the poster greeting the 3rd International Film Festival, declaring the film as the world’s first one-actor movie monument with the tag line ‘Only the Lonely’ written under the title Yaadein.

However, the noteworthy twist came in its third poster, post the censor board rated the film ‘For Adults Only’, which was quite surprising as it was a one-actor film with no crime, sex, vulgarity, murder, action or horror element in it asking for an A certificate.

Interestingly, Sunil Dutt responded to this questionable decision with his next full-page advertisement in Screen beginning with ‘Sensational News of The Year' in big bold letters at the top and a huge A on the entire page along with the text. It was an act of head-on courage rarely seen before in the Hindi film industry.

The poster said, “World’s first one-actor movie monument Yaadein becomes world’s first again because it’s been declared ‘For Adults Only’ by the Central Board of Film Censors — the movie which has no woman in it. Why is this film ‘For Adults Only’? Is this film too sexy? Is it a horror film? Is this film about adultery? Is this film too obscene or is it very near life? What makes this monument an adult monument even we wonder!”

Such bluntness and brave sarcasm in an official advertisement of a film published in one of the most reputed film news magazines of the country was never seen before. Probably feeling uncomfortable and hurt by the decision, Dutt continued with the same tone in the full-page advertisements published in the next two weeks before the release of the film expressing it fearlessly.

One of these posters had ‘For Adults Only' written all around the page making a border, with the text at the bottom reading: “This movie monument is designed specially for adult audiences and we promise to make many more adult monuments in future.”

So, where Yaadein remains a unique, unconventional and brave attempt as a film, its publicity campaign also remains perhaps the only example of its kind in the history of Hindi Cinema, through which the producer-director of a film courageously decided to comment over the certification by the Censor Board.

(The writer is a critic-columnist, an explorer of cinema and author of ‘Did You Know’ series on Hindi films also active at bobbytalkscinema.com)

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