Udta Punjab, a drug-themed film at the centre of a political controversy, cleared all legal hurdles for its scheduled release on Friday but a “leaked” version of the movie appeared online in a fresh twist to the script.
Bollywood showman Anurag Kashyap, the film’s co-producer at the forefront of a battle with the censor board, appealed to people not to watch the leaked version of Udta Punjab, a Shahid Kapoor-Alia Bhatt starrer showcasing the problem of drug abuse in the state.
Kashyap said he believed it was a case of vested interests “trying to demoralise” the filmmakers in their fight.
“So, all downloaders of ‘Udta Punjab’, I urge, wait till Saturday till you decide to not pay for the film, don’t download and share, curb the curiosity for two more days,” he wrote in a Facebook post.
The entire film has been leaked on various torrent sites – which allow downloading from the internet -- with “for censor” written on the top left corner of the copy.
“I am not sure whether it was a CBFC copy. But if it’s a censor copy then it’s a shame on CBFC, it reflects very badly on them. Piracy is an issue, which we all have been fighting for a very long time,” superstar Aamir Khan said.
CBFC chief Pahlaj Nihalani – facing allegations of trying to stifle creative freedom -- said “rumours” about the online leak should not be believed.
Anurag Srivastav, the CEO of the Central Board of Film Certification, said, “It is not possible at all. Usually, when filmmakers come to us they get the DVD or hard disk to show the film before the committee and take it back. So we don’t have the copy till we issue the certificate.”
Bhatt, who plays the role of an aspiring hockey player in the movie, said, “Guys please please do not waste 2 years of hard work, blood, sweat and tears... Please watch #UdtaPunjab in only in theatres.”
Kapoor, the film’s lead actor, also requested fans to watch the movie in theatres. “Blood and sweat of many in this film. It’s been your battle as much as ours. Now is the time you can show it. Watch UdtaPunjab in theatres,” he wrote on Twitter.
The Bombay high court restrained cable TV operators and internet service providers from airing or circulating pirated copies of the film.
Earlier in the day, the Punjab and Haryana high court gave the final clearance to the film after dismissing two petitions against the film.
The Supreme Court also refused to entertain the plea of an NGO seeking stay release of the film that had earlier fallen foul of the censor board for allegedly portraying Punjab in a bad light and glorifying drug abuse.
The Bombay high court had earlier allowed the release of the film with just one scene deleted as against nearly 90 “cuts” sought by the CBFC. The censor board’s suggestions had triggered a backlash against Nihalini whom many accuse of toeing the BJP-led government’s agenda while certifying films.
The Congress and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) accused Punjab’s ruling alliance of BJP and Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) of trying to influence the censor board’s decision to hide the state’s drug abuse problem that has allegedly crippled a generation.