Hours before it was due to open in theatres Friday,the Punjab government banned a controversial Punjabi film,Sadda Haq,which focuses on the era of militancy in the state,and attributed the decision to the need to maintain communal harmony.
But the move has stoked a fresh controversy with the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee,which is controlled by the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal and had helped the film secure censor clearance,distancing itself from the entire issue,and the filmmaker considering challenging the ban in court.
The ban was announced around 10 pm Thursday after a four-member panel comprising of Punjab chief secretary Rakesh Singh,home secretary D S Bains,principal secretary to chief minister S K Sandhu and ADGP (Intelligence) Hardeep Dhillon watched the movie at a special screening.
Sadda Haq is being seen as provocative due to a promotional song sung by Jazzy B where the valour of Khalistani movement leaders Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale,Balwant Singh Rajoana and Jagtar Singh Hawara has been equated with that of Guru Gobind Singh,among others. Some Hindu groups are protesting against the film which also deals with fake encounters.
The Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) had refused to certify Sadda Haq,objecting to its content and delaying its scheduled release last October. The team of Sadda Haq approached the SGPC,which took up the matter with the certification board strongly saying there was nothing objectionable in the film. The film was finally approved for release on April 5 after the Film Certification Appellate Tribunal gave its go ahead.
This is shocking that the Punjab government banned the film all of a sudden. We were not given an opportunity to present our side, Kuljinder Singh Sidhu,the co-producer and writer of Sadda Haq who also plays the lead role in the film,told The Indian Express. A few bureaucrats who saw the film were behind the ban. I do not know whether they consulted the Chief Minister or the Deputy Chief Minister. This is shocking.
Someone broke the windshield of the car of the associate producer of the film during a special screening in Manimajra and that is perhaps what was seen as a law and order issue and the film was banned, added Sidhu,whose brother was killed in an encounter with security forces in Punjab in 1992.
SGPC chief Avtar Singh Makkar had said that there was nothing objectionable in the film after a SGPC panel had watched it and submitted a report to him and he had written to CBFC in December asking it to review its decision. But on Friday,Makkar said the government has its own viewpoint and the concerns over law and order should also be taken into account.
Later on Friday,the producers held a press conference and claimed that the ban was temporary and that they had appealed to the state government to lift it.
Besides Punjab,the film has been banned in Haryana,Jammu & Kashmir,Delhi and Chandigarh too but has opened in Canada,the US,Britain and Australia.
Producer Dinesh Sood said the appellate tribunal had sought 20 changes and they were made. That is why we cannot understand why the Punjab government has banned it, he said. – with inputs from Jaskiran Kapoor in Chandigarh