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'Udta Punjab' vs Censor Board: "It's a war for freedom of speech"

On Wednesday, Anurag Kashyap at the spearhead with rest of the makers, cast of 'Udta Punjab' and IFTDA held a press conference to clear the entire controversy surrounding the film

'Udta Punjab' has been embroiled in more than one controversy over the last few days. Rumours of all kinds made the rounds, which included the Censor Board not issuing the certificate to CBFC asking the makers to make 89 cuts. There was also a strong buzz about Punjab being asked to drop from the film's title by CBFC. On Wednesday afternoon, the makers of 'Udta Punjab' along with Indian Film and Television Directors' Association (IFTDA) held a press conference to clear the controversies and take the battle with the Censor Board head on. The entire controversy surrounding the film seems to have brought matters to a head and certain issues out in the open.

Anurag Kashyap and Zoya Akhtar.
Anurag Kashyap and Zoya Akhtar. Pics/Sameer Markande

According to Sudhir Mishra, this is the Censor Board's way of threatening filmmakers to not dabble in certain 'uncomfortable' subjects. "Censor Board's job is to certify the film and not engage in moral policing. They are doing this to threaten the makers and financers, so that they do not make this kind of cinema but we are not scared," he says.

Also read: Filmmakers seek apology from Pahlaj Nihalani for accusing Anurag Kashyap of taking money from AAP

Ekta Kapoor and Mahesh Bhatt
Ekta Kapoor and Mahesh Bhatt

It was revealed that CBFC had asked for 13 cuts. The makers had asked for a letter about the cuts which they claim was not given to them, but the Board said that were ready to give it. Anurag Kashyap, one of the film's producers, rubbishes the buzz and says that they got the letter yesterday when they went to the Bombay High court. He says, "This whole time Mr Nihalani has been lying. He said that the certification letter was ready on Monday and we didn't go to collect it, but the truth is that we got the letter after we approached the Bombay high Court. The Board is here to certify the film and not censor the film. It's a war for freedom of speech. The audience should decide which film they want to watch."

Shahid Kapoor
Shahid Kapoor

The makers were keen on the letter as they were keen to take the film to Film Certification Appellate Tribunal (FCAT). Kashyap says, "The worst thing is that now the Judge of the FCAT is on leave till June 16 (The film is to release on June 17) so we will have to see what to do now, but this whole process is very stressful."

Ramesh Taurani
Ramesh Taurani

For now, it is unclear whether the film will release as scheduled or it will be pushed ahead.

Earlier in the day, Pahlaj Nihalani made the controversy worse by accusing Kashyap of having taken a bribe from AAP. Reacting to that Kashyap said in a blog Moi Fight Club, "We have a signed acknowledgement from Mr. Nihalani's office dated June 7, which requests him to give us the official copy. So him saying he gave the letter on Monday is a lie and proof of all his lies. Him pressurising us to delay release, and accepting cuts is and was a thought through strategy. His accusing me of taking money from AAP is not just a lie, is a diversion from the real issue to make the fight for a filmmaker's right into a political battle. And in this he is being helped by all the trolls to make sure that the real issue somewhere is lost in the political blame game."

Aanand L Rai
Aanand L Rai

Expressing his anger, director Abhishek Choubey said that they (the film's unit) had to take the step so future films don't suffer. "It's a scary situation and I was very scared and tired of the process. In fact, a couple of days ago, I messaged the producers and told them that we should go ahead with the cuts as several issues were cropping up but then we decided to take up the matter. If we would have kept shut, many upcoming films would have suffered."

Sudhir Mishra
Sudhir Mishra

Mukesh Bhatt, President Producer's Guild, even went on to the extent of saying that Censor Board Chief Pahlaj Nihalani should be sacked with immediate effect. "It's very disappointing to see a person from the same fraternity doing this. Making a film involves a lot of money and what Censor Board is doing with Udta Punjab seems to be a pre-planned thing. We want the Censor Board chief Pahlaj Nihalani to be sacked with immediate effect."

When social media went berserk with 'Udta Punjab' rumours...
All kinds of controversies made the rounds even before FCAT could make any decision. From outrage over false rumours like Censor Borad asking the makers to drop Punjab from the titles to makers being asked to make 89 cuts, it was a free for all. These rumours seem to have hopefully helped the publicity of the film as it garnered a lot more support than it would have expected.

What happened in the High Court

Yesterday, senior counsel Amit Naik who appeared for Phantom Films told justice S C Dharmadhikari and Justice Dr Shalini Phansalkar Joshi that the movie had not been given any certificate yet and that they did not have the copy of the suggestions (cuts) given by CBFC either.

Also read: These 13 cuts are the Censor Board's way of clipping 'Udta Punjab' wings

"We are aware of the antecedents of CBFC. Why can't you give an A certificate to the film?" observed Justice Dharmadhikari.

In the afternoon, the CBFC counsel told the bench that an A certificate has been issued to the film with a suggestion of 13 cuts in the film. Naik told the court that they would like to challenge the cuts to which Dharmadhikari and Justice Joshi asked to study the cuts and argue on Thursday.

The CBFC has asked the film for 13 cuts like removal of name Punjab in backgrounds, also of cities like Jalandar, Chandigarh, Amritsar, Ludhiana and Moga. Some of the other cuts demanded are : Delete abusive words from songs, and words like MP Party, election and MLA. Don't name the dog Jacky Chan, remove scenes of actor urinating in front of a crowd, and close shots of injecting drugs.
— Vinay Dalvi

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