Bollywood hails HC verdict on 'Udta Punjab'
The makers of "Udta Punjab", who had moved the Bombay High Court against CBFC's demands for multiple cuts, today hailed the verdict, calling it a "landmark judgement" and victory for the entire film industry.
"The hard work of the lawyers has paid. I am terribly pleased with the verdict. I hope films will be viewed in context and there won't be a blanket on cinema," Abhishek Chaubey told reporters here, outside the high court.
A still from 'Udta Punjb'
"Today I salute the courage of my producer and the hard work that my lawyers have put. Now, the film has been passed and we're going to fight for the release on June 17. I am terribly pleased with the verdict and relieved," he said. The Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) had earlier sought 89 cuts in Shahid Kapoor-starrer "Udta Punjab".
Subsequently, Anurag Kashyap, who is one of the producers of the film, had moved the high court against CBFC's decision. The HC today cleared the release of "Udta Punjab", but directed the filmmaker to delete a urination scene from the movie, and also asked for a revised disclaimer.
The HC said it did not find anything in the film's script that shows the state in bad light or affects the sovereignty or integrity of India as it was claimed by CBFC. The court also said that CBFC is not empowered by law to censor films, as the word censor is not included in the Cinematograph Act.
Co-producer Anurag Kashyap, who was at the forefront of the fight, simply tweeted, "I believe" after the verdict came out.
"A judgement for the whole film industry not just us, its awesome," said co-producer Madhu Mantena Verma. Actor Shahid Kapoor, who plays a drug-addict rapper in the film, called it a "landmark judgement".
Meanwhile, CBFC's CEO Anurag Shrivastav told PTI, "We acknowledge the verdict of the Bombay High Court. We work as per the guidelines. We work in difficult conditions and try to be honest with a film."
The film, based on the drug problem in Punjab, has been in news since an examining committee, headed by CBFC chairperson Pahlaj Nihalani, asked the makers to edit close to 30 minutes of the movie citing the use of cuss words.
The makers decided to challenge the examining committee's decision and approached the revising committee. The revising committee then asked the filmmakers to effect 89 cuts, including the removal of word "Punjab" from the film. The NDA-ruled Punjab, incidentally, goes to polls next year.
Actor Shahid Kapoor, who plays the role of a drug-addict rapper in the film, called it a landmark judgement. "Landmark judgement. Udta Punjab will fly and so will the voice of freedom and expression. Thank you all for the support. This is your victory," Shahid tweeted.
Film's star Alia Bhatt was elated with the news, tweeting, "And finally Udta Punjab will flyyyyy!! Here's to freedom of expression, to our judiciary, to the industry, to the media and to you all!!."
Director Sudhir Mishra said, "The verdict is fantastic. It makes me proud. This is great that the court has stood by young filmmaker Abhishek Cahubey who makes interesting and relevant films. The other filmmakers will now think freely."
Filmmaker Karan Johar tweeted, "And justice there is!!!!!!!!!... as a filmmaker I feel empowered and relieved!!!!"
Madhur Bhandarkar told PTI that, "It is a landmark judgement. It is a great victory for everyone connected with the movie and the film industry. The honourable court has given a positive judgement."
"I have always faced problems with the board since 'Chandni Bar' to 'Calendar Girl'... So today it is a victory of filmmakers," he said.
Director Neeraj Ghaywan said it was an overall win for the makers.
"Landmark judgement! Bombay HC has reminded CBFC that its job is to certify and not censor. It will set a precedent for future films. Yes, one shot was deemed 'not necessary' by the HC, which is bad but I am happy for the larger win. Change will come, slowly," he said.
"The triumph of Udta Punjab is the victory of democracy. And a victory for the spirit that does not give in or give up, " said Dia Mirza.
"Thank you Judiciary for giving back the makers of Indian cinema their right to express," wrote Ashoke Pandit. Music composer Vishal Dadlani congratulated the makers.
"Congrats, everyone who supported freedom! It isn't over, though. Punjab/Haryana are still to issue certificates."
Filmmaker Hansal Mehta said, "It's a welcome judgement. The high court has shown the way, but at the same time it's unfortunate that filmmakers have to knock the doors of the courts to get redressal when there is a body independently set up by the government to look into film."
"With this decision, the CBFC has expired. We should stop blaming individuals for these things. I think Pahlaj Nihalani is reflection of the system," he further said.
Producer-director Vikram Bhatt said, "Today is our independence day. 'Udta Punjab' is not just a film anymore. It is a movement and one that has ended in the victory of democracy."
Noted film producer Mukesh Bhatt told PTI, "As a filmmaker and President of Film & Television Producers Guild of India, I am a very relieved man today. The entire film fraternity was worried thinking what was ahead of us. We thought this was the end of the tunnel."
"The verdict has re-enforced our faith in judiciary. We don't want a watchdog sitting on top of our heads, cutting the wings of creativity. The board must realise we need to change with times. Today in the age of internet and self-regulation you cannot create archaic laws," he said.