Anurag Kashyap, producer of Udta Punjab, has launched a Twitter war following a direction from the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) to make 89 cuts to the film.
Kashyap, who is no stranger to censor trouble – his film Paanch was never released – compared the current state of affairs to being in North Korea.
When Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal responded to one of Kashyap’s tweets in support of the film, the filmmaker responded with seeming hostility:
It is not yet clear whether Udta Punjab‘s filmmakers will approach the Supreme Court over the CBFC’s demands. The film, directed by Abhishek Chaubey and starring Shahid Kapoor, Kareena Kapoor, Alia Bhatt and Punjabi singer-actor Diljit Dosanjh, is still set for release on June 17.
On May 26, the CBFC initially demanded 40 cuts from the film for explicit language and visual substance abuse. Phantom Films, which has co-produced the film with Balaji Motion Pictures, approached the board for an ‘A’ certificate for the film, which would have kept the film intact. Instead, a revising committee demanded 89 cuts, asking the filmmakers to remove ‘Punjab’ from the title, as well as removing all references to Punjab, politics and elections, and for the film to be set in a fictional state rather than in Punjab.
According to a Times of India report, the CBFC’s initial decision came a week after the state’s ruling party, the Shiromani Akali Dal, objected to the film’s portrayal of Punjabis and drug abuse. But a senior CBFC also said at the time: “We have just held back the certification. The film producers have the option to move Film Certification Appellate Tribunal. It is only about certain expletives and nothing more.”
Punjab is set to go to the polls in early 2017. The Congress and Aam Aadmi Party have criticised the Akali Dal for the state’s drug problem, which is expected to be one of the main issues in the upcoming elections.
Speaking to The Wire, independent filmmaker Abhay Kumar said that drug abuse is a fact and, at the same time, the film is clearly fictional and not a documentary, which makes the board’s directions “ridiculous”. Recalling Dev D’s troubles, he said, “Perhaps it’s time for the film fraternity to step up to all this bullying, which seems to have finally reached a limit of ridiculousness.” Kumar is set to apply for CBFC certification for his own documentary (Placebo) about life in a prestigious Indian medical college – a topic unexplored to date and likely to be unpopular with many, so getting the board’s approval could be something of a struggle.
Tanya Abrol who played Balbir Kaur in Chak De India (2007), told The Wire, “I don’t understand the logic behind the cuts requested. Without naming any party, the allegations that this must be politically motivated seem justified, because everyone knows about this drug problem in Punjab – most of all, anyone who is from Punjab. Any film, even if it is a feature film, mirrors society in some way. How are we supposed to solve problems if we don’t face them?”
The Wire sought Kashyap’s comment on the issue, but he is yet to respond.