The amount of pre-release publicity that Udta Punjab has hogged could have been any filmmaker’s dream in the correct circumstances. But for Anurag Kashyap & Co., until this morning it was no less than a nightmare with CBFC chairperson Pahlaj Nihalani predictably asking for a ridiculous number and nature of changes to be made.
And then, in a rather heartening turn of events, the film industry and public alike waged a social media war against what clearly was a politically motivated move to carefully curb freedom of expression. Of course, the movie discussed a sensitive matter of reality and the elections in Punjab are only a few months away. It could prove “hurtful”, you know.
A Bombay High Court bench comprising Justices SC Dharmadhikari and Shalini Phansalkar-Joshi approved only one out of the thirteen cuts suggested by the CBFC on Sunday and ruled that Udta Punjab be released as per schedule. It also directed the CBFC to issue a fresh certificate within 48 hours.
The court also mentioned having read the script in its entirety to check if the film encouraged drugs but found that it did not challenge the sovereignty and integrity of India with its references.
Last week, Pahlaj Nihalani invited a lot of flak on alleging that Udta Punjab was funded by the Aam Aadmi Party to malign the government. Last Friday, he was told the the function of CBFC was to certify and not censor.
“Creative freedom should not be unnecessarily curbed; nobody can dictate to a filmmaker about the content of his film,” the court noted in its order, according to the Press Trust of India.
This isn’t just a judgment passed on a soon to be released movie, it is an example that will be looked back on for years to come. This is a reinforcement that the judiciary is in place to protect the right to make sense.
In principle, they wanted to drop the “Udta” part from the title and not really the “Punjab” part. But the freedom of expression, sheltering (hopefully) sensible content in its wings, took off with flying colours.
In case you missed the entire Udta Punjab controversy: