Clipping 'Udta Punjab' is shutting out reality, say Punjabis
'From Udta Punjab to Udta Mazaak...'. This status update from a Punjab resident on social media, sums up the mood of the people on the issue of the Censor Board of Film Certification (CBFC) trying to clip the wings of upcoming Bollywood flick Udta Punjab, that deals with the issue of drug menace, in the state. According to sources in the media, the board has recommended that the name Punjab be dropped from the the title, as well as all the references to the state in the film.
The common perception in Punjab, is that this is an attempt to save the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) - BJP combine government in the state, from embarrassment in the poll year. With the movie scheduled for release a few months ahead of the state assembly elections, and the drug problem having assumed enormous proportion in the last one decade, the ruling alliance would surely be in for a tough time. The opposition parties have been gunning for this alliance on this very issue.
Locals speak up
The people in Punjab have been airing their apprehensions on attempts to scuttle the screening of the film in the state. The latest move by the censor board, to altogether remove the reference of Punjab, has not gone down well with the masses. They believe that this amounts to nothing but a complete denial of the fact that the drug menace is rampant in the state.
"Its like closing your eyes to the fact that is well known. There cannot be any dictatorship on art. I agree that art has to be responsible but such dictatorship is unacceptable. Who gives them the right to behave in such a manner? No one can deny that Punjab is facing this serious problem and it I needs to find a remedy to it instead of efforts to curtail its depiction," says academic Dr Surjit Singh.
People are drawing parallels between clippings of Udta Punjab and movies like Sadda Haq and Kaum de Heere that were banned some years back for their content. "This is the government in a self denial mode. It has always been in it. Remember when Congress vice president had talked about 70 per cent of Punjab's youth consuming drugs, deputy chief minister Sukhbir Badal had run him down saying it was a comedy. There have been findings at several levels that have pointed to the enormity of the drug problem," points out a research scholar Beant Singh.
First time in Punjab
He went on to say that this is probably the first time, that an attempt to curtail the screening of a Bollywood movie, is being made in Punjab. "After all it is a movie that is showing an aspect of the society. If you find it wrong you can always counter it with a similar production. The film makers do not belong to a political party. Such attempts at censoring art and literature cannot be accepted. I believe that art in any form and on any subject should not be denied expression," he added.
Another academic, Kesar Singh Bhangoo, while sharing his field research experiences with Catch said, "While working for an Australian project on agriculture we toured four villages in Ludhiana, Amritsar and Tarn Taran. During the course of the study I asked people how many youth were addicted to drugs. The reply was astounding as the people wanted me to ask them the other way round that how many of the youth were not addicted to drugs.
"It is a known fact that drug mafia has thrived under political patronage. True that drugs used to be there earlier also but never in the form of a complete supply chain. If such is a the scenario what is the point in blocking a film that would at least make people elsewhere are of the problem Punjab is facing.If you have allowed a menace to thrive, why are you scared of being defamed?"
BJP tugging at the Akalis
There is a general view that the BJP is towing the line of the Akali leadership on the movie, because it sees dual benefit in doing so. Firstly, it wants to ride piggy back on Akalis, to win some seats in rural Punjab. Secondly, it would need the support of Akalis in Uttar Pradesh, particularly in the Terai area, where there is a substantial Sikh population.
"Things also have to be looked at in the larger perspective. It is not just curtailing a film but a thought process at work that also throws up many questions. Those in power have always claimed to be champions of free speech. Akalis in Punjab and the BJP elsewhere have always campaigned saying they fought against emergency. They need to explain why they are themselves resorting to tools of emergency now ?" questions Shiv Inder Singh, a radio journalist and a political observer.
The film has been a talking point in Punjab for quite sometime. Its songs have become a rage, particularly 'Chitta ve', that is audible at most public places. 'Chitta' happens to be a synthetic drug which is being consumed on a large scale. The public mood suggests that if released minus the cuts, the film is sure to be a hit in Punjab.
Edited by Sahil Bhalla