A lot is being said and discussed about filmmaker Anurag Kashyap's upcoming Bollywood film, Udta Punjab. The film, which addresses the issue of drug menace in the Indian state of Punjab features Shahid Kapoor, Alia Bhatt, Kareena Kapoor Khan and Diljit Dosanjh in pivotal roles.
Now that the Bombay High Court directed the Censor Board to hand over the film's certificate to the producers, the industry is rejoicing and so are cinema lovers. However, to acquire the clearance certificate, the Udta Punjab team went through quite a struggle which emerged as a landmark one in the history of cinema.
Here's the complete timeline of how the events in the controversy unfolded:
On 16 April, the trailer of Udta Punjab was released. Surprisingly, the Censor Board passed the trailer without any cuts. Even its producer Anurag Kashyap took to Twitter to thank CBFC chief Pahlaj Nihalani and posted:
Pleasantly surprised and thankful to the CBFC for seeing the UDTA PUNJAB trailer in the context and clearing it without a single cut.Big one— Anurag Kashyap (@anuragkashyap72) April 16, 2016
Having cursed the CBFC always for there overzealous attitude ,must credit them where it's due.Thank you mr Nihalani,hoping it continues— Anurag Kashyap (@anuragkashyap72) April 16, 2016
However, on 18 April, a modified version of the trailer was released. Nobody issued any clarification over the changes in the latest version of the trailer.
On 26 May, it was reported that the CBFC has stopped the clearance of the film on the grounds that it featured a lot of cuss words. The examining committee of the board recommended 40 cuts and the deletion of references to Punjab in the film.
Kashyap directly approached the Tribunal instead of going to the revising committee first.
Meanwhile, various political parties entered the scene declaring Kashyap as a supporter of AAP and UPA. Even Nihalani made a statement that the producer is "affiliated to AAP and has taken money to defame Punjab."
Kashyap, on the other hand, put out a series of tweets deeming the entire hoopla as his own battle with the Censor Board. His tweet read:
I always wondered what it felt like to live in North Korea .. Ab to plane pakadney ki bhi zaroorat nahin..— Anurag Kashyap (@anuragkashyap72) June 6, 2016
Joseph Ka Mukadama was a Hindi play adaptation of which famous Czech novel?? We are back there 😳— Anurag Kashyap (@anuragkashyap72) June 6, 2016
There is no film more honest than UDTA PUNJAB .. And any person or party opposing it is actually GUILTY of promoting drugs— Anurag Kashyap (@anuragkashyap72) June 6, 2016
And the trolls are out to create a diversion— Anurag Kashyap (@anuragkashyap72) June 7, 2016
I request Congress, AAP and other political parties to stay out of my battle. It's my Rights vs the Censorship. I speak only on my behalf— Anurag Kashyap (@anuragkashyap72) June 7, 2016
It's my fight Vs a dictatorial man sitting there operating like an oligarch in his constituency of censor board, that's my North Korea— Anurag Kashyap (@anuragkashyap72) June 7, 2016
Rest of you go pick your own fights. I will fight mine.— Anurag Kashyap (@anuragkashyap72) June 7, 2016
So please don't colour my fight with any political affiliation because there is none.— Anurag Kashyap (@anuragkashyap72) June 7, 2016
All the trolls referring to Paanch and BF and others.. Sorry they had not invented Twitter then you idiots. Fight was the same— Anurag Kashyap (@anuragkashyap72) June 7, 2016
However much the trolls try to distract.. Fight with censors has always been there.. There was more faith now that was unfounded— Anurag Kashyap (@anuragkashyap72) June 7, 2016
FYI I have fought the UPA more on censorship issues than the NDA. But you know what , there was no Nihalani then. So the paid trolls can FO— Anurag Kashyap (@anuragkashyap72) June 7, 2016
And it's pathetic that the party supported and paid trolls are trying to make me look like an agent of congress or AaP— Anurag Kashyap (@anuragkashyap72) June 7, 2016
And I have all our texts and messages saved so if the govt is trying to make there incompetence look good then they've picked a wrong person— Anurag Kashyap (@anuragkashyap72) June 7, 2016
Speculations rose that Udta Punjab has been banned by the CBFC. In an interview later, Nihalani stated that the Censor Board has no right to ban a film. His statement read:
CBFC, on 8 June, passed the film with an 'A' certificate but remained intent on removing all Punjab related references from the film and delete words like 'election', 'MLA', 'Party' from the film. Here's what the Censor Board didn't want us to see in the film:
- Delete the 'Punjab' sign board at the start of the film.
- Delete Punjab, Jalandhar, Chandigarh, Amritsar, Moga, Jashanpura and Ludhiana from the background and dialogues throughout the film.
- Delete the word 'Chittave' and 'Harami' from all scenes.
- Delete cuss words like 'B********d', 'B**d', 'T***e', G****a', G***u, 'L***u', 'M********d', 'Kutti', 'L***I'.
- Delete the word 'Election', 'MP', 'Party', 'MLA', and 'Parliament'.
- Delete the close-up shots of injecting drugs.
- Delete the line 'Jamin Banjar Te Aulad Kanjar'.
- Change the name of dog from Jackie Chan to just Jackie.
- Delete the shot of the lead character Tommy Singh urinating before a crowd.
- The first disclaimer of the film should be an audio/video clip, with the message: "The film focuses on the rising menace of drugs and the war against drugs and is an attempt to show the ill effects of drugs on today's youth and the social fabric. We acknowledge the battle against drugs being fought by the government and police but this battle cannot be won unless the people of India unite against the menace."
On 9 June, the Bombay High Court posted the petition filed by Phantom Films - one of the producers of Udta Punjab - for a further hearing on 10 June. The High Court allowed the company to amend its petition, allowing them to challenge the Censor Board's order suggesting 13 cuts in the film.
On 10 June, the high court judge has asked the Censor Board to merely certify the film as the Cinematograph Act does not grant them the power to censor films.
"Do you see the word censor anywhere in the act? If you want to see something, use the remote. The word censor is the media's creation. Your power is to certify films. Trust viewers discretion. Leave it to the people. Multiplex audience is mature enough to decide for themselves. Audience is very open minded now. Films don't get ruined due to language," the judge said.
On 13 June, the verdict came out in the support of the producers. As opposed to the 89 cuts suggested by the CBFC, the Bombay High Court ordered only one cut - a scene where Shahid Kapoor's character is seen urinating in front of the crowd. The court stated that the scene was unnecessary.
The court also asked the filmmakers to include three disclaimers stating:
"We do not promote the use of drugs"
"We do not promote the use of cuss words"
"We are not attacking any particular state"
The court also asserted that extreme reaction could kill creativity.
Additionally, the Court affirmed that they did not find anything in the film that showed Punjab in a bad light or affects the sovereignty or integrity of India as claimed by CBFC.
Udta Punjab will release in theatres on 17 June.