The makers of Bollywood film “Udta Punjab” are said to have been asked by the Revising Committee of the censor board to remove all references to Punjab — a decision perhaps taken under pressure from the ruling dispensation in the state which is dealing with a festering problem of drugs.
The release of the movie in a year when the state is less than nine months from assembly elections is likely to be seen as politically disastrous for the state’s ruling party, the Shrimoni Akali Dal which is a partner with the ruling-National Democratic Alliance at the centre.
Earlier, there was buzz that the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) had refused a release certificate for the Abhishek Chaubey directed movie, but later the makers had clarified that no ban was imposed on it. On Monday, reports emerged that the Revising Committee of the CBFC has asked the makers to make 89 cuts.
A source in the know of developments told IANS that the board’s primary demand is to remove all the references to Punjab, but the number of cuts is not clear as they are still awaiting an “official letter”.
“We haven’t received a letter yet. We don’t know how many cuts, but we can tell you that their basic demand is that any reference of Punjab should be deleted from the movie… Which then means a lot of cuts,” the source told IANS.
The source added: “They want the film to be set in a fictitious space and not Punjab. Makers are not going to adhere to it. They will protest. If that means going to a higher tribunal, we will go. Otherwise, we will go to the court.”
It is believed the CBFC’s decision is politically motivated, but the Akali Dal never officially sought a ban on “Udta Punjab”. Senior leaders in the party told IANS in Chandigarh that the party leadership was feeling uncomfortable with the way the drug abuse problem of Punjab was being projected and could harm the political interests of the Akalis in assembly polls in February next year.
Studies done by various agencies and organisations in recent years have indicated that substance abuse, including drugs, is rampant across Punjab, especially in rural areas. The extent of the substance abuse is put by some surveys at over 70 per cent out of Punjab’s 2.8 crore population.
Co-produced by Anurag Kashyap, Vikramaditya Motwane and Vikas Bahl as part of their Phantom Films banner, along with Shobha Kapoor, Ekta Kapoor, Aman Gill and Sameer Nair, “Udta Punjab” is slated to release on June 17.
For now, the makers are not planning to shift the release date. “We are planning to host a screening for the cast and crew here on Monday,” the source said.