Udta Punjab marks a turning point for Bollywood. In a rare show of collective solidarity, the film industry has issued strong responses to the cuts issued by the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) chairperson, Pahlaj Nihalani. Ever since his tenure began in January 2015, Nihalani has been a controversial figure for issuing mind-boggling guidelines and cuts. From shortening the kissing scenes in Spectre in a bid to ‘save Indian culture’, to issuing Aligarh with an ‘A’ rating, to having a problem with a dog being named ‘Jackie Chan’, Nihalani has been at the forefront of ludicrous ‘sanskaari’ interventions around cinema. Bollywood, except for the filmmakers targeted, typically remains quiet.
All this changed when two days ago, the CBFC asked the filmmakers to remove the word ‘Punjab’ from the title of Udta Punjab. Subsequently, it permitted the team to retain the title, but not mention Punjab, or any other cities or towns in the state. The demand came after the ruling party in Punjab, the Shiromani Akali Dal issued a strong criticism against the film, which boldly depicts drug abuse in the state. The party, which is an ally of the BJP, brushed off the film’s theme as ‘all lies’.
The self-proclaimed ‘Modi’s Chamcha’ Nihalani went on to recommend 89 cuts in the film, which is already certified as Adults Only. Even though Nihalani claims that his recommendations are non-political, wanting words like remove ‘Election’ ‘Party’ ‘Party Workers’ ‘MLA’ and ‘Parliament’ removed tells a whole different story.
As the issue escalated, it looked like Bollywood has finally had enough.
A number of industry stalwarts, regardless of their connection to the film, have spoken out in support of Anurag Kashyap. Kashyap has been battling hard to release the movie without the mind-boggling cuts. Speaking to TimesNow, some Bollywood personalities said:
Aamir Khan : It’s unfortunate that Udta Punjab is going to these problems. As per my knowledge, this is a social film which speaks against drug addiction among the youth of Punjab. This issue reflects very badly on the CBFC. I hope the film gets justice at the tribunal. It is important that the voices of film makers do not get throttled. Artistes must be free to speak what they wish to speak.
Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra : There is no place for scissors and censorship when it comes to films. We only need to protect children from undue violence, sex abuse, and drugs. So rather, the board should only rate a film to indicate which age group should watch it. CBFC needs serious reforms.
Kabir Khan : We keep trying to project India as a global power, but such events of curbing of freedom of expression simply shows us in a bad light. The issue of drug abuse in Punjab is a blatant one, and by changing the title to ‘Udta XYZ’, will the audiences not know that the film is set in Punjab? Let the film be seen by the audience and they must decide the fate of the film.
Kalki Koechelin : I think it’s important for us to have a rating system, so that some films are not accessible to children. But for a film that has already been certified as Adults Only, I do not see why it has to be censored.
Others used social media to voice their thoughts:
— Alia Bhatt (@aliaa08) June 7, 2016
When you tear out a man’s tongue, you are not proving him a liar,you’re only telling the world that you fear what he might say. #UdtaPunjab
— Gauri Shinde (@gauris) June 8, 2016
#UdtaPunjab speaks of the reality of our times….censoring reality amounts to delusion…..the fraternity has to stand by what’s right!!
— Karan Johar (@karanjohar) June 6, 2016
U know a lot of people in our fraternity speak up for other causes, it’s time we stood up for our own. #UdtaPunjab deserves a proper release
— Arjun Kapoor (@arjunk26) June 7, 2016
You throttle an artist you throttle democracy… #UdtaPunjab
— Aditi Rao Hydari (@aditiraohydari) June 8, 2016
— Anupama Chopra (@anupamachopra) June 9, 2016
The makers of #UdtaPunjab could make use of the opportunity and rename it as ‘Jab We Cut’. ‘Jab We Met’ fans will be happy with the sequel.
— Shirish Kunder (@ShirishKunder) June 9, 2016
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
— Farhan Akhtar (@FarOutAkhtar) June 7, 2016
Censor Board wants Punjab removed from Udta Punjab.
Thank God these guys weren’t around when Bombay to Goa was released.
— Ramesh Srivats (@rameshsrivats) June 6, 2016
The film fraternity is finally raising a collective demand – that the CBFC should just be the Film Certification Board and not the ‘Censor’ board. Especially not under the leadership of the person who made this video, which managed to embarrass the person it was dedicated to :