Udta Punjab: HC asks censor board to explain tough stand



The Bombay High Court on Thursday questioned the Central Board of Film Certification about the reason for seeking deletion of words like `Punjab’, `MLA’, `election’ from the movie `Udta Punjab’. Hearing a petition filed by filmmaker Anurag Kashyap ‘s Phantom Films challenging the cuts ordered by the censor board, a division bench of Justice Satyaranjan Dharmadhikari and Justice Shalini Phansalkar Joshi said there existed a fine line between creative freedom and the rules.

“How can a signboard mentioning Punjab be against the sovereignty of the country?” asked the judges during the hearing that stretched for around three hours. “Are you saying this movie only depicts Punjab as drug capital? Has drug menace never been portrayed in films before this?

Some may be crude, some may be artistic,” the judges said, while pointing out that there have been movies which have shown Goa as the land of wine and women. The court also mentioned a documentary which showed the town of Moga as afflicted with cancer.”How does it insult anyone? Isn’t it to depict a menace that is affecting the society?”, the court queried.

The judges then sought the reason CBFC had sought deletion of words like ‘MLA’, ‘election’ and ‘party’ worker. “There was a film with the Aaj Ka MLA Ram Avatitle ‘tar’. There was no objection raised over it,” said the HC.
The court emphasised a balance needs to be struck between artistic license and rules. “Nobody will be allowed to abuse the right to creative freedom, but this is not the way to go about it. Delete this, delete that. What sort of lasting impression is being created about India that is being acknowledged globally? One should not attack the aggressive postures of the younger generation. This young generation is mature and its sensibilities may be different,” said the judges.

The HC adjourned the hearing to Friday and asked the CBFC’s lawyer to explain the reason for other cuts ordered for the movie. The CBFC revising committee had recommended cuts in 13 categories, including abusive words in songs and dialogue, scene of lead actor Shahid Kapoor urinating, a scene of a man scratching his side, scenes of people injecting drugs and the changing the name of a dog Jacky Chain.

Advocate Advait Sethna said the CBFC was justified in demanding the cuts and it was done as per the rules.

Senior advocate Ravi Kadam , counsel for Phantom Films, said the CBFC’s order showed complete ‘non-application of mind’ and was an assault on freedom of expression. Kadam argued that the film talks about the cross-border smuggling of drugs from Pakistan into Punjab and the problem of drug addiction in the state. “The abusive words used by the lead character, a rock singer, when he forgets the lyrics shows the manner in which drugs degrade the youth.

The scene of him urinating is also based on reallife incidents of drug-induced depravity of singers in other parts of the world,” said Kadam, adding that some dramatisation was necessary to create an impact. The use of abusive words by a smuggler and other people was realistic as this was the way they spoke, the advocate said, while defending Punjab and the names of other towns being used in the movie. He said the movie portrayed the ill-effects drugs were having on whole generations. “We will ensure the movie does not glamorise drug use and completely denounces it,” said the judges.

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