Udta Punjab row: Censorship shows its ugly head; politics makes it worse
Bengaluru, June 9: What has a Bollywood movie got to do with politics? A lot, if a film talks about real issues like drug addiction, failure of administration to curb the menace and a forthcoming election that could affect the ruling parties prospect if the film gets released.
After the chairperson of the Censor Board of Film Certification (CBFC), Pahlaj Nihalani, proposed 89 cuts on the directorial venture of Abhishek Chaubey, including removal of all references of Punjab from the film, half of Bollywood has stood together to oppose the Censor Board's "dictatorial attitude".
Leading the Bollywood bandwagon opposing the Censor Board's latest ruling is the indie filmmaker Anurag Kashyap. An angry Kashyap, who is also the producer of the film, did not mince words to call Nihalani a "dictator". The controversial CBFC chief in return alleged that the film has been financed by the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP). Once AAP's name was openly dragged into the controversy, the chief minister of Delhi and AAP leader Arvind Kejriwal said that Nihalani censored Udta Punjab on the direction of the BJP-led NDA government at the Centre.
Political observers say that the Punjab's ruling Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD)-Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) alliance government doesn't want the film to be released when the elections are just few months away. The leaders of SAD say the film tarnishes the image of the state and its people. The AAP is also contesting the upcoming elections in Punjab, likely to be held in January 2017.
The ruling parties in the state are not ready to accept the reality of spread of narcotics abuse in Punjab, but a recent report by the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) depicts a grim picture.
The study, released in January this year, has found that opioids worth Rs 7,500 crore are consumed in Punjab every year. Of these, heroin's share is a massive Rs 6,500 crore. The study has found that 0.84% (around 2.3 lakh) of the entire state's population is opioid dependent. It takes into account both opium derivatives as well as artificial substances that have the same effect as opiates on the nervous system.
If these figures are not nerve-wrecking, what could be?
Here are some of the scenes the Censor Board does not want the audiences to watch in the film:
1. Cut: Delete the signboard of Punjab in the beginning
2. Delete the name of cities like Punjab, Jalandhar, Amritsar, Ludhiana, Tarn Taran and more (All reference of Punjab cities in the dialogues/songs, anywhere in the film should be removed)
3. From Song Number 1: Name of a drug (References to drug nowhere)
4. Words from song 3 (Delete the word 'Chitta' from the song)
6. Delete Abuses
7. Delete the word elections, MP, party, Party Worker, MLA, Punjab parliament(No references: no govt rep references (38 mins)
8. Song no:3 Delete the scene of a scratching Sardar.
9. Censor board wants long disclaimers like: The film focuses on the rising menace of drugs and the war against drugs and is an attempt effects of drugs. We acknowledge he battle against drugs being fought by govt and police but it can't be won unless people of India unite against this menace"