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Udta Punjab controversy timeline: How a Bollywood film won a historic battle against Censor Board

Vineeta Kumar | Updated on: 10 February 2017, 1:49 IST

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:

Also read: Udta Punjab will fly high: Twitter goes ecstatic after Bombay High Court's landmark verdict

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.

Also read: Udta Punjab vs Censor Board: Should a 33-year-old act regulate the Indian film industry?

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."

Also read: Why Shahid Kapoor avoids getting clicked with Udta Punjab co-star Kareena Kapoor Khan

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:

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:

Also read: Udta Punjab: Anurag Kashyap says govt messing with the wrong person

"There is no ban from our end. We aren't authorised to ban a movie; we can pass it or reject it"

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."
The total of such cuts amounted to 89. Unsatisfied with the board's demand, the Udta Punjab team decided to take the legal route. Many important individuals from the film fraternity came out in support of the team. On 8 June, the Indian Film and Television Directors Association meeting was called in Mumbai in support of Udta Punjab. Filmmakers Mahesh Bhatt, Zoya Akhtar, Vikas Bahl, Mukesh Bhatt, Sudhir Mishra, Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra, Satish Kaushik, Rahul Dholakia among other known faces were present.

Filmmaker Karan Johar even wrote an article for a leading daily requesting the fraternity to unite over the issue. Read his article here.

On the same day, the producers moved to the Bombay High Court against the Censor Board's verdict. Nihalani, in his defense, deemed Udta Punjab defamatory for the entire Sikh community. In an interview, he said:
"It paints all Punjabis in a bad light. Such a movie if released will bring a bad name to the community"
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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.

Also read: Udta Punjab is a well-made film, says Shyam Benegal

"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.

Also read: Shahid Kapoor reveals 4 interesting details about Udta Punjab, Alia Bhatt, and Tommy Singh's hair

Udta Punjab will release in theatres on 17 June.

First published: 13 June 2016, 9:11 IST
Vineeta Kumar @VineetaKumar_09

Vineeta brings Bollywood fun and intricate showbiz details to Catch/Speed News. She has worked with IndiaTV, Zee News, and is here to provide Catch readers with the best of 'quality entertainment'. A Delhi girl, Vineeta pursued BMMMC from I P College for Women, Delhi University, and craves to know more all the time. When she is not indulging in a serious cinematic discussion over a film she just watched, Vineeta is either reading a fantasy book or polishing her artistic skills.