As the controversy over the film Udta Punjab rages, the Bombay high court on Thursday sought to know from the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) how mere display of a signboard showing Punjab written over it in a border area posed a threat to the sovereignty and integrity of the country.
The division bench of justice SC Dharmadhaikari and justice Shalini Phansalkar-Joshi sought to know the same from CBFC advocate Advait Sethna, referring to the fact that the board has asked the producers of the film to delete an opening scene showing the display board.
The bench was also upset with CBFC’s directives to the producers of the movie to delete references to various cities and towns of Punjab.
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?” they sought to know.
The court also expressed surprise at the directives of the board 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,” they said.
The court has now posted the petition filed by Phantom Films, challenging the June 6 order of CBFC asking it to delete at least 13 different items, words, references etc, for Friday.
The producers of the film had originally approached the high court complaining about lack of communication from the censor board about the certification of the film.
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.
Counsel for the production house, senior advocate Ravi Kadam, on Thursday said they had strong objections to the board’s suggestions, adding it showed “complete lack of application of mind and arbitrariness”.
Sethna, on the other hand, submitted that issuance of an ‘A’ certificate to a film does not mean that it can be allowed for screening with whatever a filmmaker has produced. He also pointed out that the producer was heard before the order was passed and reasons were provided for suggesting the cuts.
The division bench also disapproved of the war of words between the producers of Udta Punjab and the censor board over the certification of the movie and the cuts suggested by the board.
“This is not a matter over which such a hue and cry was necessary,” said the judges, calling the entire episode “obnoxious.” “You are a responsible authority,” the judges reminded CBFC, but at the same time also slammed Anurag Kashyap directly for taking the matter to media.