Events that unfolded late Thursday night, leading to a ban on the screening of Punjabi film Sadda Haq (our right) in Punjab, translate to perhaps another long wait for the movie’s producer-actor Kuljinder Singh Sidhu, who has been engulfed in a fight for its release for many years now. On Friday, Sadda Haq was left to test its fate in foreign shores, where it purportedly enjoyed houseful shows in the US, UK, Canada and Australia.
Interestingly, cinemas in Chandigarh showed a complete sell-out of tickets on Thursday night, an unusual happening where Punjabi films are concerned and a fact affirmed by Dinesh Sood, co-producer of Sadda Haq, who was a part of the press conference held by the film’s team at Chandigarh Press Club, Sector 27, on Friday.
In a milieu where information sharing takes a fraction of a second and the world is condensed in smartphones, do bans spell an unholy doom of creative freedom of expression? Or does the society need news filtering, to be able to decipher the meaning and aftermath of consequential happenings?
The ban seems to have put KS Duggal in perplex. The head of department of journalism and mass communication at Guru Nanak Dev University regional campus, Jalandhar, Duggal can’t fathom the sense of banning a film after it was awarded a clearance certificate from the Film Certification Appellate Tribunal and the SGPC (Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee).
“A ban by the Punjab government stands invalid,” he remarks, adding, “The Punjab government is doing exactly what the Tamil Nadu government did with the film Vishwaroopam, which was released only after actor Kamal Haasan threatened to leave the country. A movie deserves better treatment. The decision-makers should be the audience, who should be allowed to watch and then form an opinion on its credibility.” Duggal goes on to add that the students of the department were looking forward to watch Sadda Haq, since its makers — who include Kuljinder Singh Sidhu, Nidhi Sidhu and Dinesh Sood — are the alumni of the department. “The ban has only upped peoples’ curiosity who wouldn’t mind going to other states to watch it,” he says.
Ludhiana-based Darshan Pal Singh Grewal, a Punjabi film producer, who last financed Punjabi film Jatt and Juliet, also feels the ban is unnecessary. “The film seems to be in the right taste. It was only the song Baghi by singer Jazzy B that seemed to provoke people, but the song was not even a part of the film, it was made only for its promotion,” he says.
Similar sentiments are echoed by Arif Nazir, an assistant professor at the department of mass communication and video production, DAV College, Amritsar. “Banning any form of expression is wrong. Today, the audience is smart enough to understand the reality and can differentiate good from bad. If the Censor Board had given the green signal to the film, it should not have been banned.” Nazir acknowledges that the sensitivity of public sentiments have to be kept in mind by filmmakers, but adds that films are a medium of entertainment as well information dissemination. “If a film is made on a serious issue, its makers have the right to reach people. Banning a film is no solution,” he avers.
Bans usually make the intelligentsia uneasy. City-based author Neel Kamal Puri, who has written two novels, The Patiala Quartet and Remember to Forget, with the turbulent times of Punjab as background, believes that free speech is cathartic. “Where censorships and bans are concerned, the line is very thin because one man’s evil is another man’s good. Though I wouldn’t agree with canonisation of a militant, but then it could be someone’s point of view. We are an intolerant lot. This ban is arbitrary and not a test of peoples’ opinion. People should be allowed to watch it, and if it’s bad, the film will fall through.”
However, to counter advocates of freedom of creative expression are those who support the ban, arguing that it is placed in the interest of the society. Vishesh Chhabra, a student of journalism and mass communication in Amritsar, says, “I feel that the ban is justified because the film deals with a sensitive issue and post its release, it would have led to communal disorder. A horde of allegations on various communities would have started, leading to disturbance. Although I do feel that films are used as a medium to inform, but there is no point discussing old issues again.”
Inputs by Archna Matharu, Swati Goel Sharma and Mehakdeep Grewal