The CEO of the censor board, which faced flak for suggesting several cuts in “Udta Punjab”, today welcomed the Bombay High Court’s verdict in favour of its release, saying the ruling was not a setback or a matter of “victory” or “defeat”.
The HC today gave a nod for the release of the drug-themed movie after asking its makers to delete an urination scene and display a revised disclaimer.
It directed the Central Board of Film Certification to certify the film within 48 hours to enable its release as scheduled on June 17.
“We respect it (verdict) and will comply with it. It is not a setback. For us it’s not about victory and defeat. Film industry and the censor board are on the same page,” Anurag Shrivastav, CEO, CBFC, told reporters in Mumbai.
“As far as we are concerned, we try to follow the act according to the guidelines. The order is yet to come to us in writing. The court has passed a long order on this. The crux will come out only in the written order,” he said.
The HC came down heavily on the CBFC and asked it not to act like a “grandmother” and change with times.
The court also said CBFC is not empowered by law to censor films, as the word censor is not included in the Cinematograph Act, 1952.
“Censor is a media creation. We don’t use it. As far as we are concerned, we follow existing act and law and guidelines. The CBFC alone does not do anything. There is a revising committee, tribunal is there. It does not function independently,” Shrivastav said.
Asked if the CBFC, post-verdict, will broaden their horizon and view films differently, he said, “We don’t go to court every now and then. As the court has also observed, things evolve over time. Let the order come and then we will also see how we will evolve.”
The HC was hearing a petition filed by Anurag Kashyap’s Phantom Films, co-producer of the film, challenging the CBFC order suggesting multiple cuts.
There were reports the CBFC had suggested 89 cuts to the Shahid Kapoor-starrer film.
Dismissing the number of cuts, Shrivastav said, “We had suggested only 13 cuts…no idea where the figure of 89 came from. The court discussed each and every cut. The revising committee must have thought something about it but court removed the cuts. There’s no big deal.”
The Abhishek Chaubey-directed film deals with the issue of drugs in Punjab. Due to its subject, the film got mired into controversy with the producers accusing censor board chairman Pahlaj Nihalani of trying to delay the release.
As per the revised disclaimer, the makers will have to delete reference to Pakistan. They will also have to make additions to the disclaimer to the effect the movie does not promote the use of drugs and abusive language, and is only attempting to depict the reality of drug abuse.
A host of B-town celebrities had come in support of the makers of “Udta Punjab” and said CBFC Chairperson Pahlaj Nilhani, who has been facing criticism for suggesting cuts, should step down.
On this, Shrivastav said, “It’s a film which could have been passed with certain cuts and now it has been passed with less number of cuts. I don’t think why anyone should step down.”
He rejected suggestion that Nilhani was avoiding the media, but said he was not aware about the CBFC Chairperson’s whereabouts. “I don’t know where he is. I have no clue. Why will he avoid media?”
The veteran Bollywood film producer, who was appointed CBFC chief in January 2015, was in Bhopal yesterday.
Meanwhile, a petition has been filed on technology platform Change.org seeking sacking of Nihalani. The petition, filed by a Bengaluru-based woman, Shriya Desai, has garnered support of 45,000 people in the past five days.
In her petition, Desai, who has just finished her post -graduate studies from London, alleged, “Pahlaj Nihalani has been treating the Censor Board like his personal fiefdom and taking arbitrary decisions.”
She demanded Nihalani’s removal from the CBFC for “embarrassing” the movie industry, the Central Government and general public.
Kashyap, who is associated with “Udta Punjab” as a co-producer, has shared Desai’s petition on his Facebook account.