By Shilpa Jamkhandikar
MUMBAI (Reuters) - If the Indian censors have their way, James Bond can make liberal use of his licence to kill. But he'll have to cut back on the kissing - by exactly half.
The latest installment of the 007 franchise, "Spectre", will be released on Friday with heavy cuts after censors deemed the romantic encounters between Daniel Craig, and co-stars Monica Belluci and Lea Seydoux, inappropriate for the viewing public.
"The committee which was to certify the film thought some of the kissing scenes were too long," said a source familiar with the application to the censors, who asked Sony Pictures cut the kissing scenes by 50 percent.
"The studio either had the choice to accept the cuts or apply for an A certificate, which significantly cuts down reach and exhibition."
The Censor Board is controlled by India's nationalist government and has turned a disapproving eye on films with steamy sex scenes.
It is currently headed by Pahlaj Nihalani, a Bollywood producer who made a campaign video for Prime Minister Narendra Modi last year, and released another promotional video for him last week.
Its ruling has been panned by critics on social media, who accuse it of serving the government's conservative moral agenda, stifling freedom of expression. Nihalani could not be reached for comment.
Under Indian law, films with an A - or adult - certificate can't be shown on TV. India still accounts for a fraction of Hollywood's revenues, but franchises like James Bond and the Avengers can beat Bollywood's own productions at the box office.
"50 Shades of Grey", the film based on E.L. James's erotic novel, was never released in India even after the studio cut every sex scene. The board rejected it on the basis that the language used in the film was inappropriate.
(Editing by Douglas Busvine and Sanjeev Miglani)