Mumbai: Leading filmmaker Shyam Benegal has said that Udta Punjab is a “very important film,” and that the same set of rules cannot be applied to everything since “films are not made in a factory,” referring to the censorship of the film, which deals with the drug menace in Punjab.
A special screening of Udta Punjab was held yesterday for Mr Benegal, who has prepared a report suggesting reforms in the Central Board of Film Certification, often called the Censor Board, which is yet to apply his recommendations.
In a short while from now, the Bombay High Court will hear a petition by Anurag Kashyap’s Phantom Films, one of the producers of Udta Punjab, who have been told by the board that their film can only release with 89 cuts, which include deleting scenes in which the words Punjab, Jalandhar, Chandigarh, Amritsar, Tarantaran, Jashanpura, Ambesar, Ludhiana and Moga are featured.
Among other cuts that the censor board chief Pahlaj Nihalani wants is the name of a dog named ‘Jacky Chain’ – the board argues it will hurt the sentiments of famous Hollywood actor Jackie Chan. Also, words like ‘election, ‘MP’, ‘party’ in party worker, ‘MLA’, and ‘Parliament’ and about 20 expletives. And Mr Nihalani wants a disclaimer added to the film which says, “We acknowledge the battle against drugs being fought by the government and police”.
Top filmmakers and actors have supported Mr Kashyap, severely criticising Mr Nihalani over the Censor Board’s stance on the film. The Congress and Aam Aadmi Party have alleged that Mr Nihalani has demanded the cuts at the behest of the BJP, a partner of the ruling Akali Dal in Punjab, where elections will be held early next year.
Both the opposition parties have built their election campaigns against the Akali Dal around the drug issue. Chandramukhi Sharma, a member of the CBFC, said Mr Nihalani “has acted like a Public Relations Officer of the state government.” Pahlaj Nihalani, a known BJP supporter, has stoutly denied allegations that political considerations have influenced his stand on Udta Punjab.