The Bombay High Court Friday suggested that the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) has “a poor understanding of people’s mind” and that its job is not to censor but to certify content for public viewing.
A division bench of Justice S C Dharmadhikari and Justice Dr Shalini Phansalkar Joshi was hearing a plea filed by Anurag Kashyap’s production house, Phantom Films, challenging 13 cuts suggested by the censor board to the movie, Udta Punjab. After hearing both sides, the High Court said it will pronounce its verdict on Monday.
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As the CBFC remained firm on its stance seeking 13 cuts to the movie, the court suggested that the producers consider removing a scene which depicts the protagonist urinating in public. The senior counsel representing Phantom Films, Ravi Kadam, said they were willing to do so.
On the use of abusive language, Kadam said they were willing to add a disclaimer saying they do not promote or encourage use of expletives by any person in society. The proposed disclaimer will also mention that the film does not depict any state in particular, and that it does not propagate the use of drugs of any kind, Kadam said.
Asserting that there ought to be freedom of depiction, Justice Dharmadhikari told the board, “Your job is to certify a film for public exhibition.” He added that the board did not need to censor material and should leave censorship to the people. “There is poor understanding of people’s mind. Movies are now released in multiplexes and not single screens. People are tired with this overdose,” he pointed out.
“Your job is to guide the younger generation. Tell those manning the authority. The younger generation will not be impressed by this. Being critical is not going to help,” said Justice Dharmadhikari.
When CBFC’s lawyer Advait Sethna argued that the movie glorified drugs in the state, the judge asked why they had
not moved to ban the movie completely.
Saying that the censor board was providing publicity to the movie through this “unnecessary confrontation”, the judge said, “If the content is poor, the movie will not last. You have saved their promotional expenses. This is publicity as if nothing else is happening in the world.”
“There is a remote in your hands. Give it to the people. Whether it is cinema or TV, if they don’t want to watch it, they will switch it off,” the court said.
The court said that with the passage of time, things that are viewed by the public have changed. “A solemn function like a marriage has also been vulgarised. Have you seen how celebrations and marriages are shown, doesn’t this take freedom then? Sometimes you have to open your eyes and be direct. Is gyrating not shown in films?”
Asking why the board wanted to cut the word Punjab from the film, the court said, “What do you find objectionable in referring to the state?” Saying that such a deletion might present some difficulty, the judge asked the censor board to reconsider: “You have the right and opportunity.”
On the use of expletives, Justice Dharmadhikari said that if a truck driver is shown, he will speak in a rustic manner. When Sethna said the filmmakers had portrayed the drug issue in Punjab in a direct manner, the judge pointed out the young generation is “very candid”.
“You are presenting the movie to an audience and a generation which is very direct and candid and open. They (the
filmmakers) feel they have a very mature perception,” said the court.
Sethna also pointed out that they had suggested the cuts in accordance with the guidelines and the statutes, to which the court replied that films don’t do well because of abusive language. “There has to be a strong story. If it is a poor copy of a Western film, it won’t work. They are learning from their mistake,” Justice Dharmadhikari said.
With regard to the deletion of the Punjab signboard, Sethna said, “The film starts with a scene showing a signboard and packets of drugs are being thrown from Pakistan to the Wagah border, which is why we want the signboard removed. It is defamatory.”
Kadam responded, “The film is based in Punjab. Their ways, clothes, all depict the mannerisms of the people of the state. They have not raised any objections to Pakistan as they don’t have elections there.” Kadam added that the real motive of the board was to seek deletion of any mention of Punjab and other cities, and the rest of the cuts had been suggested to disguise their real intent.