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To Ban or Not to Ban – The Udta Punjab Controversy Around Punjab’s Drug Problem


Udta Punjab has been in the news from the very moment its first posters were released. The trailer garnered a lot of praises for Shahid Kapoor and Alia Bhatt’s look and the issue that was being dealt with i.e. the drug problem in Punjab.

Although Anurag Kashyap has rubbished the rumours that Udta Punjab has been banned, the makers have been asked to make around 40 cuts in the movie which include a song, some scenes of drug consumption, profanity and ‘excessive swearing’.

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The larger issue here is not about whether the movie has been banned or not. Rather a question as to when will the Central Board of Film Certification deem the Indian audience mature enough to watch meaningful cinema.
The CBFC has been in the news quite a lot since Pahlaj Nahlani became the Chairperson. He has gained a reputation of an extremely conservative and immature man who is out on a spree to preserve what he understands as ‘Indian culture’. The worst example of censorship since is of advising cuts for films like Jungle Book and Angry Birds, and the former has even been given a U/A certificate.


Many politicians, including Rahul Gandhi, have talked about the issue but the Shiromani Akali Dal refuses to acknowledge it claiming it to be a propaganda to malign Punjab’s image. Moreover, the loved Punjabi actor and singer, Diljit Dosanjh has been highly criticized for being part of a movie that defames the State.

It is indeed true that Punjab has had a severe problem of drug abuse and generations have been ruined. However, the Shiromani Akali Dal has objected to the movie saying that it shows Punjab in ‘bad light’. Rival political parties have used the issue of drug abuse to attack the SAD time and again. Moreover, the State elections in Punjab are around the corner and drug abuse is a major issue picked up by the Aam Aadmi Party which is trying to gain ground in the State.  The well known music video by Kumar Vishwas ‘Ek Nasha’ which taunted the Badal government over the drug issue, levied accusations on them of promoting the drug trade. Therefore, with the State elections in sight, the Badal government would not want any more attention on the issue. The party corners itself with anything to do with the ban or censorship on the film and says it is a matter between the makers and CBFC.

Earlier, the movie ‘MSG: The Messenger of God’ got into trouble with the Punjab government where they sought to ban the film claiming that, “The screening of the film is likely to evoke strong emotional reactions leading to public display of conflicting emotions. The government cannot allow the chain of actions and reactions to pose a threat to peace and social harmony of the state.”

Although there were protest against the movie by student leaders but the reason was different. They protested because the protagonist of the movie Gurmeet Ram Rahim Insaan had various criminal cases pending against him and was being glorified wrongly.

The lethal combination of both a conservative Censor Board and political ingenuity in our country is severely detrimental to creative expression.

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Navneet Arora
Navneet Arora
Punjabi demeanor. Borderline introvert. Feminist. Amidst the hyperactive screamers, a patient listener. Big Bollywood Fan. Day-dreamer. Loves sexual innuendos. Budding Filmmaker. Sarcastic blogs are her thing. Follow her and you will know!



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