Censor Board chief Pahlaj Nihalani is again in the line of fire for ordering numerous cuts and suggesting dropping all references to Punjab from the movie Udta Punjab. In his first reaction since the controversy broke, Nihalani speaks to Subhash K Jha, exclusively for HT:
You are once again being condemned, this time for ordering 89 cuts in Udta Punjab, or is it 90?
The producers of Udta Punjab have not even implemented any cuts as yet. So how does the media know about the number of cuts? It’s like doing a sex-determination test for an unborn baby. It’s unethical and illegal.
...Anurag Kashyap for one.
I haven’t met him (Anurag Kashyap, the film’s co-producer) even once about Udta Punjab. In the past...when there was objection to Bombay Velvet, we passed the title to ensure Mr Kashyap’s creative urges do not get suppressed. Now, when he is not getting his way, I’m the biggest villain... Mr Kashyap is like a child being denied a toy. He loves to make a noise every time a film directed or produced by him is released.
Kashyap feels you run the CBFC like your personal fiefdom.
Says who? Ashoke Pandit (censor board member opposing the cuts)? The man who Kashyap hails as a sensible voice in the CBFC just because Pandit is opposing the CBFC’s decision to not allow Punjab to be vilified in Udta Punjab.
Could you tell us what exactly are the cuts the CBFC wants?
Udta Punjab claims to mirror the truth about the whole of Punjab. According to the film, 70% of the youngsters are drug addicts. Where did they get this figure from? The film’s dialogue states Punjab is banjar (barren) land and the people are kanjar (wayward). Tell me is this not vilifying the whole of Punjab?
So does it release on time?
The CBFC has never stopped any film from being released on time. When Udta Punjab came to us, we found the film carpeted with the filthiest abuses. We said ok let him (Shahid Kapoor) abuse when his character is under the influence of drugs. But, why should he talk like that when normal? Who speaks like that in everyday conversations? We’ve even allowed Alia Bhatt to abuse. But we couldn’t allow Punjab to be damned.
Kashyap says he won’t take a single cut.
Let him fight it out...
Are you under pressure from the government to stop Udta Punjab?
Let me make this very clear. There is no political pressure whatsoever on the censor board regarding Udta Punjab. If Kashyap and his colleagues have their creative freedom, the CBFC, too, has its freedom to do its job.
(Subhash K Jha is a veteran film journalist)