Censor Board chief Pahlaj Nihalani today faced heat on multiple fronts in the escalating row over “Udta Punjab” with demands for his sacking including over his allegation that its maker Anurag Kashyap may have taken money from AAP to make the drug-themed Bollywood film.
As the film fraternity rallied behind Kashyap in the censorship row with superstar Amitabh Bachchan saying creativity should not be killed, the producers moved the Bombay High Court seeking a copy of the order passed by Censor Board’s Review Committee suggesting “13 changes” and removing reference to Punjab in the film. (Also read: Not aware if anyone had sung Sultan song before: Rahat Fateh Ali Khan)
The producers later said they got a copy of the order.
Nihalani said that the producers themselves did not collect the order until today and instead went to media persons making the matter public.
“We met with the producers on Monday and told them about the cuts. They said, ‘If we get cuts, will you give us the certificate?’ I said, ‘Of course yes’. But they did not turn up to collect the letter. They directly went to media. Today they came to collect the letter.”
Mahesh Bhatt, Mukesh Bhatt and Anurag Kashyap alleged that the Censor Board was intentionally delaying the film’s clearance.
The Shahid Kapoor, Alia Bhatt, Kareena Kapoor Khan and Diljit Dosanjh starrer movie that delves into how the youth in Punjab have succumbed to drugs is slated for release on June 17. (Also read: Udta Punjab controversy: Youth has the right to know drugs are a menace, says Shahid Kapoor)
The makers had also alleged that Nihalani purposely refused to hand them the letter, which mentioned the cuts.
Mukesh Bhatt while targeting Nahalani said a person who is a roadblock and not a facilitator should be removed.
“That is something intolerable, unacceptable to film fraternity and we want him out. His move is malicious and vicious. He lies, delays the process and will bully the person,” Mukesh, President, the Film and Producers Guild of India, told reporters at a joint news conference in Mumbai that included the cast of the film. (Also read: Udta Punjab issue reflects badly on CBFC, voice of the filmmaker shouldn’t be throttled: Aamir Khan)
Nihalani’s allegation against Kashyap and AAP set off another war of words.
Taking a potshot at Kashyap, who is the face of the fight against the Censor Board, Nihalani claimed he has heard that the filmmaker had taken money from Aam Aadmi Party(AAP) to show Punjab in bad light.
“I’ve heard Anurag Kashyap has taken money from AAP to show Punjab in bad light,” Nihalani claimed. Punjab goes to polls next year and AAP is a key contender.
Rejecting the charge, AAP leader Ashish Khetan told reporters in Delhi that Nihalani must apologize to Kashyap for levelling the allegation or else he should be sacked.
The Indian Films and Television Directors Association also condemned the allegation and demanded an apology as soon as possible. “This is not just an insult to Kashyap but to the film industry as a whole,” said the Association, led by president Ashoke Pandit, who is also a member of the CBFC.
AAP Chief and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal alleged that Nihalani’s statement makes it amply clear that he has stopped the film on “BJP’s instructions”.
BJP rejected the allegation.
“I completely reject it (charge) that the government has any role or intervened to stop its release. AAP survives on controversies. It creates controversies for political purpose,” Union Minister Rajiv Pratap Rudy said. Nihalani also rejected allegations that he is under any political pressure.
Information and Broadcasting ministry officials asserted that the certification process is independent and even court verdicts have made it clear that the government does not have much role in it.
The revising committee had recently viewed film “Udta Punjab” and suggested 13 changes to be made by the film makers besides removing the reference to Punjab state in the film.
According to the committee, the changes were suggested as the film was not in conformity with the Cinematograph Act.
Outside the court, the lawyers of the film production company said “We had asked for a ‘A’ Certificate and said the film does not portray anyone in bad light.”
Though 73-year-old Bachchan has not taken any side in the debate, he said, “I am not aware of the issue, but would like to say that don’t try to kill creativity.”
“Filmmakers can approach tribunal and courts, only problem is censoring comes near the release of a film,” he further said.
Another superstar Aamir Khan also came out in support of “Udta Punjab”, saying the voice of a filmmaker should not be throttled.