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'Udta Punjab' row: Bombay HC asks CBFC to explain cuts; board defends decision

The Bombay High Court on Thursday asked the CBFC to explain the 13 changes suggested in the upcoming Bollywood release 'Udta Punjab' as the board stoutly defended its Revising Committee's decision in the matter.

'Udta Punjab'. Pic/Santa Banta
'Udta Punjab'. Pic/Santa Banta

The suggested changes are "justified and proper", the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) said during a hearing of a petition filed by the film's co-producer Phantom Films before a division bench of Justice S.C. Dharmadhikari and Justice Shalini Phansalkar-Joshi.

Justice Dharmadhikari likened the film to another drug-themed movie 'Go, Goa, Gone' (2013) which showed Goa state as a party destination where people socialised and consumed banned drugs.

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

The CBFC lawyer argued that it had objections to the reference to Punjab, its people and the language used in the film.

Responding to Phantom Films' counsel Ravi Kadam's contention that the Revising Committee's June 6 order was "arbitrary and without application of mind", the CBFC lawyer denied it and said the order was proper and within the framework of the guidelines.

The court expressed its reservations on two suggested deletions of references to Chandigarh, Ludhiana, Amritsar, Tarn Taran, Jashanpura and Moga in Punjab.

Making it clear that the CBFC was doing its job, the judges asked it to explain the changes sought to be made in the film, which has created a major pre-release controversy revolving around freedom of expression.

"Are you suggesting that the film depicts Punjab as only a drug capital...? How can you ask them to delete words like 'MP', 'MLA', 'election' etc," the court questioned.

On the other suggestions of the Revising Committee, the CBFC lawyer said he would make submissions on Friday. The court will now continue to hear the case on Friday.

On June 8 morning, Phantom Films moved the high court, seeking a copy of the CBFC order suggesting changes to the film.

However, since the Revising Committee's order was received on Wednesday afternoon, Phantom Films had requested the court for time to study it and make amendments to their petition.

Accordingly, the court had posted the matter for hearing on Thursday.

The Revising Committee's order has suggested 13 changes to the movie, besides deleting references to Punjab as it was allegedly not in conformity with the Cinematograph Act.

Directed by Abhishek Chaubey, the film, starring Shahid Kapoor, Alia Bhatt, Kareena Kapoor-Khan and Diljit Dosanjh in leading roles, deals with the topic of drugs menace in Punjab.

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