Udta Punjab, a hard-hitting movie on the drug menace of Punjab has been subject to heavy censorship by Pahlaj Nihalani led Censor board of India. The movie, slated to hit the theaters on June 17, has been at the receiving end of 89 cuts for “excessive swearings”, along with the dropping of ‘Punjab’ from title.
Censor Board’s take
While the decision has sparked huge uproar all across the social media, Nihalani, himself, came to the defense of the cuts made. He said the movie goes against the guidelines of the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) to defame any person or community. In an interview given to the Economic Times, he said “the movie defames the people of Ludhiana, Jalandhar and other cities of Punjab and it paints all Punjabis in bad light. If such a movie is given permission to be released, then it will bring a bad name to the community that is present everywhere in the world. “
With just a few months to go before Punjab elections, politically, the release of the movie is a big matter of concern for the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD). Political overtones have been associated with the movie as Chief Minister of Punjab, Prakash Singh Badal, believes it will defame the state as the drug hub of the country. It is also being believed that the movie that shows drug abuse among the state’s youth will also take a toll on the SAD-BJP’s chances at re-election. However, it is not clear whether the government has manipulated the CBFC for taking this decision.
Response from film fraternity
Soon after the Censor Board’s decision came out, members of film fraternity and many others took to staunch criticism against the board on social media. Anurag Kashyap, co-producer of Udta Punjab, posted series of tweets calling Nihalani “a dictatorial man… operating like an oligarch.” Actor-director Farhan Akhtar tweeted, “Power is the most dangerous addiction of all & someone in the CBFC seems to be tripping hard on Lassi in the Sky with Diamonds. #UdtaPunjab”
Top brass from the Aam Aadmi party also took to twitter supporting Anurag Kashyap, as the drugs problem is at the center of their campaign in the coming election.
The film should release without cuts
The truth is that the drug menace is real in Punjab and the government has been able to do little about it. Today, unfortunately, 70 per cent of the state’s youth are involved in drug abuse. Udta Punjab reportedly portrays this issue. Imposing heavy censorship on the movie might not let the mass audience know about the reality, but it doesn’t help actually to restrain the use of substance abuse in the state. Not showing the truth does not imply that the truth itself does not exist. The heavy unemployment among the millennials and lower productivity of soil have evoked frustrations and resulted in heavy drug abuse among the people.
As Shakespeare rightly said, “What’s in a name?” we would like to ask the Censor Board, even if ‘Punjab’ is dropped from the title Udta Punjab, will it be of any help for the state? If a Gangs of Wasseypur can go well with the audience, why can’t a Udta Punjab? The film producers have no objection to getting an ‘Adult’ certificate.
The other reason for which “Udta Punjab” faced the wrath of the CBFC is “excessive swearings”, a lame excuse in the modern entertainment industry, which is contradictory to the many precedents we have like Delhi Belly or an Omkara. We do not endorse swearings, but the true fact is that swearings have become part of many’s daily culture, no matter which part of society an individual belongs to. The hypocrisy lies here that the Censor Board does not browbeat any of the new age sex-comedy movies that contain millions of sexual innuendos and sexist remarks, but revealing the ugly truth is a big NO.
Movies and literature are the mouthpiece of the society and reflect its true culture. Imagine the immense effort taken by everyone — from the actors to writers and director of the movie. But all their efforts have gone wasted because all they wanted to show is the reality. If Udta Punjab is ultimately subjected to such censorship, now probably any director would think twice before making another flick on reality.
From India’s Daughter to Aligarh, the Censor Board has not spared any of them. Even The Jungle Book had to go with an U/A certificate.
The Logical Indian urges the government and the CBFC to review the decision taken with Udta Punjab and also to revamp the norms of CBFC. In the digital age, where information, videos, and movies are accessed on various platforms, censor board is a concept to do away with. The constant censorship on everything does not bode well for the civil liberties guaranteed under the Indian constitution. Udta Punjab should come out without censorship and must disclose the reality.