In a resounding victory for 'Udta Punjab' makers, who had been caught in a major censorship row, and the artistic fraternity as a whole, the Bombay High Court trashed the suggestions of the Censor Board which had asked for 13 cuts in the film. The court, in its order on Monday, directed the Board to clear 'Udta Punjab' with just one cut — Shahid Kapoor's character urinating before a crowd — and certify the film with a reworked disclaimer. The film, centered on rampant drug abuse in Punjab, had fuelled a political as well as artistic debate.
Shahid Kapoor in Udta Punjab
While passing its judgment, the bench observed, "None can dictate to the maker how to make his film and what should be the context...It is entirely for them to choose the setting, the under-lying theme and story line." However, it did not agree with the makers' argument that if cuss words had been allowed in many films in the past, they should be allowed in 'Udta Punjab' too.
A two-judge bench headed by SC Dharmadhikari had earlier pointed out that 'Udta Punjab', prima facie, did not appear to glorify drug abuse, one of the main contentions of the Censor Board for which it had suggested multiple cuts to the film co-produced by Anurag Kashyap and Ekta Kapoor.
Also read: Bollywood hails HC verdict on 'Udta Punjab'
An ecstatic Shahid tweeted, "Landmark judgement# UdtaPunjab will fly and so will the voice of freedom and expression. Thank you all for the support. This is your victory (sic)."
His co-star Alia Bhatt wrote, "And FINALLY #UdtaPunjab will flyyyyy!!Here's to freedom of expression, to our judiciary, to the industry, to the media and to YOU ALL!! (sic)."
Kashyap also took to Twitter to express his joy over the judgment. He posted, "Thank you To the honourable Judge, thank you all for the faith and support.. Time to get back to work.. Two back to back releases (sic)."
Confirming that the film will be successful in keeping its date with the audience this Friday as scheduled, Alia Bhatt tweeted saying, "Here we come !!!!! #UdtaPunjabOn17thJune."
Soon after, trade analyst Taran Adarsh followed with a post: "Mark the date: #UdtaPunjab to release on 17 June 2016. Just confirmed with Balaji."
Earlier, there was speculation that the film wouldn't be able to arrive in theatres in time due to the longstanding stalemate between the makers and the Censor Board. In fact, so confident were the makers of two other films, 'Shorgul' and 'Junooniyat', about 'Udta Punjab' missing its June 17 target and releasing on June 24 instead that they advanced their own release date by a week. Wonder if they are regretting or reconsidering their decision!
Dibakar Banerjee, filmmaker
It's a welcome judgment. I congratulate the producers and the director for their perseverance. But imagine if every producer has to go to court to receive a very basic constitutional right! Doesn't this indicate how obsolete, politically motivated and absolutely non-productive the CBFC has become today? And don't the audience have anything to say in the matter? Those who consume films should get to know what nightmares we have to go through to bring cinema to them. All Indian film-going citizens need to decide whether they want a group of political sycophants to dictate what they can see.
Sudhir Mishra, filmmaker
I am happy that the High Court has upheld creative freedom. The CBFC or a few members of the board had created a sense of fear, but such a decision will give filmmakers the confidence to make the kind of films they want. This verdict means that you can have different opinions, but cannot stop someone from expressing their views.
Anees Bazmee, filmmaker
First of all, this is a victory against a tyrant. The law of the land is supreme. This judgment is a slap on the face of the Censor Board. I sincerely believe that instead of going to the censors, we should go to the courts for certification. The courts will also take care of other political organisations, which, for their own vote politics, create ruckus at theatres.
Gauri Shinde, filmmaker
It's a superb verdict and gives us creative people immense faith in the judiciary. And hope this film or any other film doesn't suffer any more losses or trauma.
Amar Butala, COO, Salman Khan Productions
The verdict is an incredibly positive one. It has confirmed the role of the CBFC — they are a certification board and not a censor board. Film producers and directors are mature enough not to misuse creative freedom, and it would be very myopic for us to abuse it for short-term gains. From what I understand, there is one cut, which the makers have willingly accepted. So, from 85-plus cuts, which were originally asked for, we are down to one. This really is a victory. Ekta Kapoor as the producer took a hard stand, and her belief has paid off. The process for getting a censor had become unusually long and cumbersome, and this verdict is one in the right direction.
Neeraj Ghaywan, director
I think the Court has contradicted its own statement in which it asked CBFC to not censor but certify (films) by issuing a few cuts. It is disappointing to get these few cuts after so many wins. The CBFC will use these cuts to their advantage from the next time. However, I am happy for the makers since most of their (Board's) suggestions have been neglected.
The CBFC had suggested too many cuts and the court's verdict has shamed them. I am happy for the makers. However, I still don't understand how the court itself has justified a few cuts. Also, thankfully the studio had the budget to fight a legal case; if an independent producer, who has low budget for a film would have been stuck, the scenario would have been different. It is high time that we become sensible.