The Bombay high court appeared upset with the censor board during a hearing on a possible ban on Udta Punjab on Thursday, asking how the onscreen depiction of signboards with Punjab written on them in border areas posed a threat to India.
The query from the division bench of justice SC Dharmadhikari and justice Shalini Phansalkar-Joshi referred to the censor board’s directive to remove an opening scene of the Shahid Kapoor-starrer that showed display board with Punjab written over it.
The court also disapproved the board’s directives to the film producers to delete words like MLA (Member of legislative assembly), MP (Member of Parliament), election and reference to political parties.
“We don’t understand this – delete this, delete that,” the judges said.
The hearing comes amid growing national outrage over the censor board’s proposed cuts to the movie, a move that many say violated free speech.
The HC bench was also angry with the Central Board of Film Certification’s (CBFC) order to delete references to various cities and towns from Punjab, shown in the movie slated to be released on June 17.
The judges cited examples of Hindi war films released in the past.
“This country has fought wars, so some reference of some place is bound to be reflected in the war films,” the judges said. “Will mere reference to some cities and towns provoke people or offend their sentiments?”
The matter will be heard again on Friday.
The producers of Udta Punjab approached the high court complaining about lack of communication from the board about the certification of the film produced by Anurag Kashyap’s Phantom Films and Ekta Kapoor’s Balaji Motion Pictures.
The producer contended there was ample discussion in the media about the CBFC decision but they had not received any official communication.
On Wednesday, Phantom Films amended its petition and also incorporated in it the challenge to all the 13 suggestions made by the board while granting “A” certification for the film.
The counsel for the production house, senior advocate Ravi Kadam, said they had strong objections to all the 13 suggestions of the Board.
Kadam cited an example of the suggestion asking them to delete the sign board shown in opening of the film and pointed out that the Board had made the suggestion on the ground that the display of the board would be a threat to the sovereignty and integrity of India.
“This shows complete lack of application of mind and arbitrariness on part of the Board,” Kadam said also pointing out that the other cuts relate to some abusive words used in two songs, reference to various cities from Punjab and words like election, MLA, MP etc.
Advait Sethna, on the other hand, submitted that issuance of an “A” certificate to a film does not mean that the film could be allowed to be screened with whatever filmed by the producer.
He refuted the allegation of arbitrariness, pointing out that the producer was heard before passing of the order and there were reasons for suggesting the cuts. He, however, expressed difficulty to point out the issues with the cuts saying the reasoning behind it could not be understood without viewing the movie.