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Udta Punjab censorship: politics, not expletives, behind the move

Rajeev Khanna | Updated on: 10 February 2017, 1:49 IST
The move
  • The Central Board of Film Certification has blocked the release of Shahid Kapoor-Alia Bhatt starrer Udta Punjab
  • It says the film is laden with expletives, which is the reason for the move
The allegation
  • The people of Punjab sense that the reason for blocking the film is political, as it portrays the drug menace in the state
  • SAD\'s Virsa Singh Valtoha had attacked the film\'s trailer for showing Punjab in a bad light
More in the story
  • Why Amarinder thinks it\'s all Jaitley\'s fault
  • What AAP leader and film actor Gurpreet Ghuggi thinks about the move

The people of Punjab are not buying the Central Board of Film Certification's (CBFC) contention that the release the Shahid Kapoor-Alia Bhatt starrer Udta Punjab has been stalled for its expletive-laden dialogues.

The state is gearing up for next year's Assembly polls, and the drug menace is a major issue behind the anti-incumbency of the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal-BJP combine government. That's why people are convinced that it is the theme of the movie that's making those in power uncomfortable.

Read: Udta Punjab's wings clipped by Censor Board allegedly for 'excessive swearing'

It is being contested that many movies, like Bandit Queen and Delhi Belly, had a liberal dose of expletives, while several more like Grand Masti were laden with double meaning content and were still given a clearance. In fact, for several weeks, people have been skeptical that Udta Punjab will be allowed to be released.

Censor board has contended that Udta Punjab has been denied certification for too many expletives

In fact, SAD leader Virsa Singh Valtoha who had let the cat out of the bag by reportedly attacking the film's trailer for showing Punjab in a bad light. He had said that the venture was an outcome of a trend to defame Punjab and its youth.

The SAD had quickly distanced itself from Valtoha's comment, saying these were his personal views. Party spokesperson Daljit Singh Cheema had said that it would be wrong to comment hypothetically till the exact contents of the movie were seen, and that Sukhbir would take a call once the film is released.

Amarinder's assault

In a bid to push the Parkash Singh Badal government on the back foot, Opposition parties have given voice to the apprehensions of the people, and targeted the government for the 'banning' the movie.

Firing the first salvo, Punjab Congress president Captain Amarinder Singh condemned the CBFC for banning the movie outright, saying it has clearly been done at the behest of the Akali-BJP government. "The movie has been banned clearly with a guilty conscience," he remarked.

Also read: Udta Punjab: 40 cuts by the censor board for Shahid Kapoor - Kareena Kapoor film

Amarinder used the opportunity to hit out at the Union Information and Broadcasting Minister Arun Jaitley, whom he had defeated from Amritsar in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, for being party to this 'authoritarian' decision to ban a movie that depicts the sad and harsh reality of Punjab.

"If you think that by banning a movie, which depicts the harsh reality of the drug scourge in Punjab, you will hide the truth from the world, you are badly mistaken,"Amarinder said.

"At least Jaitley should have stood against the ban, as nobody can know it better than him how serious is the drug problem in Punjab. Moreover, the problem of drugs and the people involved and associated with it and who managed his campaign, were the main causes of his (Jaitley's) defeat from Amritsar."

Punjab Cong chief Amarinder has blamed I&B Minister Arun Jaitley for this 'authoritarian' decision

Amarinder hailed the efforts of the team that made the film, and said: "Unfortunately, the powers that be do not want to see the reality and the writing on the wall and they have simply tried to run away, not realising that more they try to hush up and hide it, the more it will be exposed and revealed to the outside world."

The former Chief Minister attacked the SAD-BJP combine for going into a denial mode and gagging an effort to present the reality of Punjab.

He pointed out that the ban also violates and undermines the spirit of Article 19 of the Indian Constitution, that guarantees freedom of speech and expression. "Rather, the violation is more serious in this case, as the movie aimed at presenting a grim and harsh reality of Punjab before everybody," he said.

AAP alleges autocracy

The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), which has been leading a very aggressive campaign against the state government on the issue of the drug menace, said the CBFC is coming out with lame excuses to ban the film.

AAP leader and Punjabi film artist Gurpreet Singh Ghuggi pointed out that just a week ago, the SAD had expressed reservations over the portrayal of Punjabis in the film.

"Since SAD is an alliance partner of the Narendra Modi-led BJP government at the Centre, the Akalis must have exercised their influence over banning the movie. Otherwise, film director Abhishek Chaubey was even ready to screen the movie with an 'A' certificate if the CBFC felt there was excessive swearing in the movie," he said.

The makers have the option of appealing to a tribunal, but insiders believe that they'll have 'to contend with a few cuts'. At the same time, reports suggest that the censor board has taken a call to stall the film due to the fact that the state of Punjab is going to hold elections next year.

Ghuggi said such 'autocratic tactics' by the Akalis cannot conceal the reality of Punjab, and that over the last nine years of their 'misrule', they have pushed the state deep into the drug menace.

"The Akalis are scared that the movie would expose them all around the world for their senior leaders' direct involvement in the multi crore drug racket in Punjab," he said, adding: "They are responsible for the closure of many news channels, and also for recently blacking out the Zee Punjabi news channel from the cable network which is controlled by SAD president and Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal."

Edited by Shreyas Sharma

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First published: 28 May 2016, 6:03 IST