Censor Board justifies changes in 'Udta Punjab'

The Bombay High Court on Thursday asked the Censor Board to explain why it is insisting on deletion of Punjab signboard in film 'Udta Punjab' even as the film body insisted that the 13 changes suggested by its Revising Committee were justified and proper.

A bench headed by Justice S C Dharmadhikari was hearing a petition filed by Phantom Films, producer of 'Udta Punjab', which is aggrieved by an order of the Revising Committee of the Board that suggested changes in the film before its release on June 17.

Justice Dharmadhikari compared drug-themed 'Udta Punjab' with another film released earlier titled "Go, Goa, Gone" saying in that movie the state of Goa is shown as a place where people go to socialise in parties and also take banned drugs.

"If Goa can be shown as a place of drug abuse in that film, what is wrong if Punjab is shown in Udta Punjab?" asked the judge.

The Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) lawyer argued that the order of the Revising Committee suggesting 13 changes in the film was not arbitrary and the committee had applied its mind while making these suggestions.

"We are objecting to the reference of Punjab and its people and the language used in the film", the lawyer argued.

Hearing the arguments, the court said that it was not satisfied with the first two suggestions made by the Censor Board in regard to the first two suggestions of the Committee about removing references to places in that state such as Chandigarh, Amritsar, Tarantaran, Jashanpura, Moga and

On other suggestions of Revising Committee, the Censor Board lawyer said he would make submissions tomorrow, following which the court deferred the matter.

The Censor Board also justified the impugned order saying that there were no delay on its part and that it was proper and within the framework of the guidelines.

However, Ravi Kadam, counsel for Phantom Films, the production company of Anurag Kashyap, said the impugned order was issued without any application of mind and was arbitrary.

"Punjab is an integral part of the concept and cannot be deleted from the film", he said.

References to Punjab in film were in the context of the theme and did not form substantial part of the dialogue and the script, the petitioner's lawyer Ravi Kadam argued.

How can the reference to Punjab be construed as questioning of the sovereignty and integrity of the country in general and of the state in particular, he asked.

The suggestion of the Revising Committee to delete certain words from a song was totally unjustified as these words were related to drug abuse, he said.

During the arguments, Justice Dharmadhikari asked the Censor Board's lawyer how its suggestion of removal of reference to `Moga', a place in Punjab, from the film was justified.

The Judge also noted that in the past there was a film which dealt with how the town of Moga became a 'cancer town', but the film did not belittle the place. In the same way, how would "Udta Punjab" malign Punjab, the judge sought to know.

While summing up, advocate Kadam said that the producer was not given a hearing by the Revising Committee, and hence the principles of natural justice were violated.

The film, which stars Shahid Kapoor, Alia Bhatt, Kareena Kapoor-Khan and Diljit Dosanjh, deals with the issue of how the youth in Punjab are succumbing to drug addiction.

The censor board's suggestions include removal of abusive words from dialogue, certain words from the songs, references to Punjab and places in the state and deletion of close-up shots of actors injecting the drugs.

The board also wants the producers to make changes in the disclaimer in the movie.

CBFC's suggestions sparked off a political sparring earlier this week, prompting the co-producer Anurag Kashyap to ask the political parties to stay away from the controversy.

The controversy acquired political overtones because Assembly polls are being held in the state next year.

Kashyap also hit out at the CBFC chief Pahlaj Nihalani, calling him "oligarch" and "dictator", and said it was like living in North Korea.

Several filmmakers, including Karan Johar, Mahesh Bhatt, Ram Gopal Varma and Mukesh Bhatt have come out in Kashyap's support.

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