Amid the controversy of film ‘Udta Punjab’, which is yet to be released as the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) has raised objections over the film, doctors, experts and counsellors dealing with drug-abuse problems in Amritsar on a daily basis, say the film should be released, but the message portrayed by the film-maker should be solution-based and not “demean” the reputation of Punjab and its community.
The experts say, “Cinema can play a very important role in appraising youth about the drug problem, but at the same time glamorising sensitive issue like drugs can prove fatal for society.”
The CBFC has asked the film-makers to remove the word Punjab from the title. The experts said that mentioning that ‘70% youth in Punjab is indulged in drugs’ in the movie was misleading.
Dr JPS Bhatia, who is supervising the first drug rehabilitation centre for women in Punjab and has cured thousands of addicts till date in his de-addiction and family rehab centre ‘Hermitage’, said, “Cinema plays an effective role, but film-makers should be conscious while portraying sensitive issues like drugs. The film should not glamorise such grave problems, which has affected many lives in the state. Glamorising such issues will affect patients in a negative way. Directing films like these asks for a responsible behaviour, but if the film is solution oriented, then it should be cleared by the board.”
On movie becoming a political battle, where the ruling government is denying that the drug problem exists to a level portrayed in the film, Bhatia said, “Everybody knows that the problem of drugs exists in the state and the border belt is more vulnerable to it, but comparing the state with Mexico will defame its (Punjab) image.”
Dr PD Garg, who is treatment in charge of Punjab’s first drug-rehabilitation centre and heads the Swami Vivekanada Drug De-addiction Centre (SVDDC) at Guru Nanak Dev Hospital, emphasised, “The Punjab Opioid Dependence Survey (PODS), conducted by the ministry of social justice and empowerment, states that out of 2-crore population (approximately) of Punjab, nearly 2.35 lakh are drug addicts, while an another survey states that drug abuse is amongst 15 lakh people, which makes it not more than 15%. Stating that 70% of the state population is affected by the menace is factually incorrect. The cinema should highlight social issues, but not by exaggerating facts. The figures should be checked and then shown in the film. Being a Punjabi, I will request the film-maker not to defame our community and our state by not checking the facts.”
Garg added that the film should be released, but the focus should only be on the problem.
Fateh Foundation NGO head Anoop Singh Bhullar, who, with a team of 30 counsellors, is on a mission to sensitise people about ill-effects of drugs and motivate them to enrol for deaddiction in Bhikhiwind and Valtoha blocks of Tarn Taran district, said, “Of course, the situation is alarming and if it was not, then why did the state government come up with rehabilitation centres. And also now Punjab is the first state to have a women rehab centre. Till date, in our mission, if we have covered 18,000 families, out of them 800 have confessed addiction and I can assure that 50% of youngsters, in both the blocks between the age group of 15 and 35 years, are into drug abuse. This belt is affected and every family has a story to say.”
Meanwhile, a counsellor, Namrata Gupta, said, “Cinema or any visual media creates an impact, but the impact should be positive. The film-maker of ‘Udta Punjab’ can save many lives as the message can be spread out loud, wide and clear, but constructively should be applied and solution to the problem should be in the film.”