The censor board has asked the makers of Shahid Kapoor-starrer Udta Punjab to drop all references to Punjab from the movie that revolves around the state’s drug addiction problem, sources said on Monday.
The decision of the board’s revising committee is possibly aimed at helping the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) dodge uncomfortable questions around the mounting drug addiction problem nine months before the assembly polls.
“It is not about cuts any more as the board wants the makers to set the film’s plot in a fictitious place. This is very bizarre. How can they ask to remove Punjab from the film?” said a film industry insider.
Board member Ashoke Pandit condemned the demand and called it an insult to the “freedom of expression”.
“If the trailer of the film was allowed, what is the problem with the film? What kind of situation are we heading to? It is a dangerous trend,” said Pandit, who is not a part of the committee.
“I am sure the film will be cleared in the tribunal. It is the most comic decision to ask them not to use the word Punjab,” Pandit added.
Analysts say the movie’s portrayal of drug addiction among Punjab’s youth might prove disastrous for the SAD, an NDA constituent, because of widespread discontent regarding the state government’s failure to tamp down on the problem.
Anurag Kashyap, one of the film’s producers, had thanked board chief Pahlaj Nihalani a few weeks ago on Twitter for clearing the expletive-laden trailer. Nihalani was unavailable for comment.
Filmmaker Onir, who faced a similar problem for his film My Brother...Nikhil in 2005 called the decision unfair.
“I think it’s important that we grow up and address the real problem. Why are filmmakers being penalised? There is a film which is showing the truth and now it’s facing so much objection.”
Earlier reports said the board wanted 89 cuts in the movie but sources indicated the new demand went beyond cosmetic changes or dropping the reference to Punjab in the film’s title.
“The film depicts the hardcore reality of Punjab that was reported by the media and is well-known. The makers haven’t cooked up something,” the insider said.
Directed by Abhishek Chaubey, the film starring Shahid Kapoor, Kareena Kapoor Khan, Alia Bhatt and Diljit Dosanjh was slated to release on June 17.
A source told HT that the demands hadn’t been formally communicated and the producers will go to the censor board tribunal or the court to challenge the decision. The makers, however, were ready to talk about some cuts or demands to change the film’s name.
“They are dilly-dallying knowing very well that the release is round the corner. To demand that all references to Punjab be removed from the film is unbelievable.”
The producers were unavailable for comment but sources suggested the release date won’t be postponed.
“If the state government or any political party had objections to the film or its content, they should have gone to court,” Pandit said.
The move might benefit the Akali Dal though the party never officially sought a ban on the Udta Punjab. But SAD spokesman and state minister Daljit Singh Cheema told HT the movie was projecting Punjab wrongly.
“The movie is tarnishing the image of Punjab and its people by showing them as drug addicts,” Cheema said.
Filmmaker Vikram Bhatt said that the developments shocked him. “This is just bizarre. We get the government we elect. Nowadays you make a film and you don’t know what you will get in return,” he said.
Sources said the movie hit a hurdle because of depiction of narcotics abuse and the use of expletives, joining a string of controversial movies that underwent cuts or name changes due to cultural, political or religious reasons.