Udta Punjab & Censor Board Controversy

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Udta Punjab Controversy

Ever since beep beep took over the beep of the beep beep of beep beep, the beep has been at the beep of beep. Phewww!!!!. How difficult it is to understand this sentence with so many “beeps”. Now imagine a 2.5 hour movie with 89 cuts. The soul of the entire movie gets crushed, thereby restricting the freedom of expression of some of the most creative minds of the country.

Now repeating the first sentence without censors: Ever since Pahlaj Nihalani took over the chairmanship of the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC), the board has been at the helm of controversy- this sentence informs us about the crippling problem being faced by the board and the autocratic way of functioning of it’s chairman.

The recent controversy regarding “Udta Punjab” has not just given it undue publicity but has also revealed the lacunae in the way the CBFC functions. The film makers of the drug themed movie ” Udta Punjab” have been asked to remove any references to Punjab or its cities and to censor the expletives used extensively in the movie. While few of the cuts proposed are reasonable but a maximum number of them are arbitrary.

The order to remove any references to Punjab has given the entire controversy a political hue. It has been alleged that Pahlaj Nihalani is following the directions of the central government which is an ally of the state government of Punjab. Punjab is due for assembly elections in the next few months and the ruling party fears that the movie will have a negative fallout on its prospects of winning the elections. It was because of alleged political interference last year also that Leela Samson resigned from the chairmanship of the board.

“No film that extols or encourages a social evil is permissible. But a film that carries the message that a social evil is evil cannot be made impermissible on the ground that it depicts the social evil,” the Supreme Court said in 2006 while giving directions to Doordarshan. It is like banning the famous daily soap ” Balika Vadhu”  just because it showed the child marriage of the female protagonist. In the past, movies like “Go Goa Gone” got a clean chit from the CBFC even as it depicted Goa in bad light by showing it as a party destination where people consumed contraband drugs. Then why a movie like “Udta Punjab” which seeks to create awareness about the deep rooted drug problem in the state are being forced to delete scenes.

Censoring a movie is not a solution to the grave problem which has destroyed many youngsters and families. Inadequate attention has been given by the successive governments with schemes that lacked proper implementation. Employment and peer pressure are the major factors, driving them in the trap of substance abuse. On top of it, the nexus between politicians and drug peddlers has further aggravated the situation. The rehabilitation centers lack the basic facilities for their treatment with inadequate number of counselors and psychiatrists.

The filmmakers approached the Bombay High Court for redressal and though the HC has reserved it’s order for June 13, the points raised by it have shown it’s support for creative expression and artistic freedom. It has slammed the CBFC for imposing arbitrary restrictions on the filmmakers, reminding the board that its mandate is to certify the films and not censor them. People are the biggest censors themselves and are mature enough to understand what should be seen by them and their children. The CBFC should stop behaving like a guardian and let people decide what they want to see.

When technology has advanced to a level where everything is easily accessible on the internet, then there is no point in censoring films. People will watch what they want to by any means and even the filmmakers have the option to release the uncensored version on the internet. The CBFC should instead focus on giving the correct certificates to the films so that people are able make correct decisions.

The Bombay High Court’s verdict is highly awaited and will decide the fate of the movie which has been made to bring forth one of the biggest evils plaguing the society at present. It should be seen in the larger context of creating mass awareness about the issue so that the government is forced to take more concerted actions in curbing the menace.

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