Removing ‘Punjab’ from the dialogues, “acknowledging” that the government and the police are fighting the drug menace, and removing close-up scenes of characters injecting drugs — these are some of the things the review committee of the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) wants to ensure before giving the ‘A’ certificate to Bollywood film Udta Punjab.
The committee’s report was provided to the filmmakers on Wednesday after the movie’s co-producer, Phantom Films Limited, approached the Bombay High Court in this regard. This comes a day after the company sent a legal notice to the CBFC. The filmmakers claim that despite the review committee watching the movie on June 3, it did not get back to them till June 8.
On Monday, CBFC chairperson Pahlaj Nihalani had claimed that the committee report was ready on Monday but the filmmakers did not collect it. However, on Wednesday, producer Anurag Kashyap denied Nihalani’s claim and said the report reached them only on Wednesday afternoon — after they moved the High Court.
Amid the sparring, Union Minister for Communications and Information Technology Ravi Shankar Prasad said that the government “celebrates and supports creative freedom”. Speaking at the Express Adda in Mumbai, Prasad also asserted that “we have no role in the CBFC”.
On Nihalani’s statement that he is “proud to be a Modi chamcha”, Prasad said, “I think such comments need to be avoided. Our pradhan mantra describes himself as pradhan sevak of the country, and I don’t think the pradhan sevak needs any sycophants.”
According to the review committee’s letter, it wants any mention of Punjab, which appears 94 times in the movie, to be muted. Besides this, it wants over 80 other cuts to the film. It also wants names of cities such as Jalandhar, Chandigarh, Amritsar, Tarn Taran, Ludhiana and Moga removed from the dialogues.
The CBFC further wants an audio and video disclaimer at the beginning of the movie, which states: “The film focuses on the rising menace of drugs and the war against drugs and is an attempt to show the ill-effects of drugs on today’s youth and social fabric. We acknowledge the battle against drugs being fought by the government and the police. But this battle can’t be won unless the people of India unite against the menace.”
Some other cuts suggested by the committee include removal of a signboard that reads Punjab, close-up shots of characters injecting drugs, a dog being called “Jacky Chain”, words such as election, MP, party, MLA and parliament. The committee also wants to do away with a scene which shows actor Shahid Kapoor’s character urinating, and “visuals of a Sardar scratching/itching his side” from a song. It also wants the words “Chittave” and “Harami” removed from a song.
Until these changes are made, the CBFC has refused to grant an ‘A’ certificate to the film, without which it cannot be released on June 17.
Lawyer Amit Naik, who is representing the production company, said, “The filmmakers could have approached the Film Certificate Appellate Tribunal (FCAT) but its chairperson is on leave, so they had no other option but to move the High Court.”
The Information and Broadcasting Ministry, meanwhile, sought to distance itself from the row by seeking refuge in a Union of India vs K M Shankarappa Supreme Court ruling of 2000.
Kashyap has said that he has made numerous calls to I&B minister Arun Jaitley, which went unanswered.
The I&B ministry is expected to use the 2000 SC ruling — in which it held that the executive should not interfere with the working of the Board or the Tribunal — as its defence.
The court had made the ruling while hearing an appeal by the Union government against a Karnataka High Court judgment dated April 2, 1990, which struck down portions of section 6 (1) of the Cinematograph Act, 1952 as unconstitutional.
Section 6 (1) of the Act pertains to the “revisional powers of the Central government” when it comes to certification of films. It allows the Union government to step in and review matters that have been decided by the CBFC or the Tribunal.
The SC had ruled that the tribunal is a quasi-judicial body conferred with the powers to decide the effect of a film on the public: “Once a quasi-judicial body like the Appellate Tribunal… gives its decision, that decision would be final and binding so far as the Executive and the Government is concerned.” The judgment had also called Section 6 (1) “a travesty of the rule of law”.
The I&B Ministry is now set to use this SC ruling against the Union government in its favour.