The controversy over the release of ‘Udta Punjab’, a movie which reportedly highlights drug menace in Punjab, do not seem to end. With Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) suggesting major cuts and change in the title of ‘Udta Punjab’, filmmakers, literary and theatre personalities lent their support for the release of the movie.
Tarlochan Singh, Punjabi actor and theatre activist, who has enacted and written several plays on drug menace in the state, shared that it was not the first time that a movie was made on drug menace.
There are number of short movies and documentaries already been made which vividly highlighted the issue of drugs and its social and cultural impact on Punjab. Now there seem to be two end to the controversy over the film’s release, first it is either politically motivated move so that ruling dispensation in state do not get subjected to general public’s scrutiny and wrath or it is a publicity stunt to garner maximum popularity. Whatever be the case, there must not be censorship on the movie which highlights the drug menace in Punjab. A national-level uproar is evidence enough that if released, ‘Udta Punjab’ would bring about a positive change in addressing the menace of drugs in the state.
SS Johal, eminent academician and former vice-chancellor, Punjabi University, said that it was a clear cut attempt at injuring creative pursuits of film makers and the CBFC’s move seems to be politically motivated. The fact is that with a release of the movie, the enormity of drug menace in the state would be out for everybody to see in the country, therefore, compelling political leaders to take corrective measures. The problem of drug menace is deep rooted in the state, so even if the movie makers tread that extra mile while taking creative liberty to highlight the issue then they must be allowed to do so, leave aside making cuts in it. And there could not have been a better medium than a movie to shed light to the issue.
Jatinder Mauhar, a Punjabi film maker who has directed ‘Qissa Punjab’ (2015), a Punjabi movie which highlighted the issue of drug menace in Punjab, said, “While grading of movie can be done as per its content but suggesting major cuts and censoring will take away the real message behind the creation of the movie. The movie should be released without removing its parts and CBFC shall repose its confidence on audience and let them decide if the movie was good or bad. As an artist, one should have the liberty to intervene and highlight social issues. The film’s title in no way denigrates the image of Punjab and changing the title of a movie is like taking its soul out of the body.
AK Banerjee, who runs Sadbhawana society, a city-based non-government organisation (NGO) which actively worked to contain the drug menace in state since 1998, said, “Rather than putting restraints on the release of the movie, CBFC and the Union government should exhort the making of more such films. The youth of Punjab has been eaten badly especially the rural belt is completely in the grip of drug menace, and most of the addicts know that their future would be to either land in jail or end up at graveyard. If the film is highlighting an issue which has corroded the state badly, do not incite violence and do not hurt any religious sentiments must be released without censorship”.