In a statement that has brought a sense of relief to the entire Bollywood community, the Bombay High Court has clearly told the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) that their primary objective should be to certify films and not censor them. The court also said that the audience is mature enough to understand what is right and wrong and what they should watch and avoid. It added that the movie Udta Punjab ultimately aims to spread awareness about drug abuse and does not intend to spread misinformation about the State of Punjab or its people. All stakeholders are now eagerly waiting for Monday, June 13, when the Bombay High Court will announce its verdict on the Udta Punjab censorship issue.
Censorship of films has become a nagging issue in the Indian entertainment industry. The recent controversy over the censorship of Udta Punjab by CBFC seems to have united the entire Bollywood community against the allegedly dictatorial practices by CBFC, which is headed by Pahlaj Nihalani. Pahlaj has been defending his decisions by giving a variety of explanations, even going to the extent of claiming that one of the movie’s producers, Anurag Kashyap, has taken money from the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) to create a bad name for the State of Punjab. This claim, however, has been clearly denied by Anurag Kashyap. Now, that the matter is in court, there is little that Pahlaj can say or do except wait for the court’s verdict on June 13.
Udta Punjab’s case appears strong since the decisions of CBFC appear to be politically motivated rather than follow a set standard. For example, earlier, a similar movie, ‘Go Goa Gone’, was released, which dealt with the widespread usage of drugs in the State of Goa. The makers of Udta Punjab argued that if ‘Go Goa Gone’ can be released, they why Udta Punjab is being specifically singled out for censorship. They also pointed out to films like ‘Delhi Belly’, ‘Bandit Queen’ and ‘Gangs of Wasseypur’, each of which had something negative about a particular State.
The problem of drug abuse is very real in the State of Punjab, as can be seen from the wide variety of media reports. As per the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), Punjab, with 10,220 registered cases, had the highest number of drug abuse cases in 2012. This goes on to show that people in Punjab need urgent help to combat the problem of drug abuse, which is upsetting the social and economic paradigms in the State.