Who gives a flying ##%*?
Please note I am not using the alliterative word, which rhymes with ‘duck’, because I’ve censored my own use of it. That’s called self-censorship.
Now if I wanted to use ‘who gives a flying gander’ instead, I would gone right ahead because I am capable of making a distinction between the profane and the sacred, and language which is permissible in family newspapers. The problem arises when some people arrogate unto themselves the right to tell other people what they can or cannot use because of reasons which are decidedly spurious, and which have nothing to do with the creative aspect of the work under consideration.
The chief problem with the Central Board Of Film Certification (CBFC) is that it has never really embraced the change in its name, from `censorship’ to `certification’, with any seriousness. A body which was set up during the pre-Independence era for the specific purpose of curtailing sedition in cinema carried itself over into free India without junking the colonial-mindset: with the exception of a few right-thinking members in the current ( and previous) boards, the primary mode of functioning is lecturing and hectoring the natives who have to be protected from their own `ignorance’ at all costs.
Udta Punjab, starting Shahid Kapoor, Alia Bhatt, Kareena Kapoor and Diljit Dosanjh, is about the rampant drug menace in Punjab. That drugs of all kinds are used and abused, and that some part of the state machinery is corrupt and complicit, has been well documented. The CBFC’s demand that a film set in Punjab not be named so is beyond ridiculous. Even for a body which hasn’t exactly covered itself in glory with its arbitrary, high-handed functioning, this is rock-bottom.
Indian filmmakers have only recently started feeling emboldened enough to name names, whether it is people or places : the la la land that it inhabited all these decades is giving way to real places with their angularities and specifications and accents. These are long overdue, heartening changes. The completely needless `tamasha’ over Udta Punjab is a telling comment on several things. It tells us just how hard it is for people in positions of power to relinquish their desire to control everything. It tells us just how hypocritical we are thaton the one hand we castigate Bollywood for making cinema that is not in sync with the times, and when it does attempt it, we turn our back on it. It tells us that sanctimony is still the preserve of those whom we vote for and who use our tax money to decide on our behalf, without any consultative processes, what is appropriate viewing. This is nothing but making sure that both the filmmaking community and us, the viewers, remain infantilized.
Will calling it just Udta make any difference now that the whole world and its shrill TV-talk-show- consuming-uncle and screechy tabloids is aware of how the use of the word ‘Punjab’ has been found problematic? Will expunging ‘Ludhiana’ or the name of other cities in Punjab prevent us from recognising which they are ? Will not saying Punjab make the drugs, and the death and devastation they have caused, simply vanish? A rose by any other name may smell as sweet, but it would never really be what it is. Let a million flowers bloom. Let a million Punjabs fly.