If there is any issue that continues to make headlines and grab everyone’s attention across all age groups and professions – it has to be the ongoing battle between the makers of ‘Udta Punjab’ and the Central Board of film Certification (CBFC). What began as a tiff soon turned into an issue that raises questions about the freedom of expression and the restrictions that are imposed on a filmmaker in the current times while he is making an earnest attempt at making a creative film.
For the uninitiated, film co-producer Anurag Kashyap had attacked censor board chairman Pahlaj Nihalani over the 89 cuts he ordered in the film, which revolves around the drug menace in Punjab. A few days back, Nihalani alleged that Kashyap had "taken money from AAP" to show Punjab in a bad light through his film. While the film continues to spark heat and politics plays out in Punjab, we spoke to 'Qissa Punjab' director Jatinder Mauhar. Released last year, the film showed how drugs have destroyed the lives of several youngsters in Punjab, a harsh reality that we just can’t deny.
Within a few moments from now the Bombay high court will pass orders on the cuts suggested by the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) to the film. The ruling will be important not just because it will put the focus on the freedom of expression for directors, but also state the CBFC’s power.
While directors and politicians continue to argue on the alleged “political motives” that have been made behind making the film, and how it can effect the political result in the Punjab elections, Jatinder tells us the film’s debacle is only due to political parties’ intervention. “Yes, political intervention could be a clear reason for the fiasco. With elections to happen next year, a film like this which so clearly speaks about drug addiction prevalent can sway voters.”
Jatinder strongly feels that the government should think of ways that can help curb drug menace in the state. “We want the government to understand the real problem that’s ailing the state at both the political and policy level. Nasha kyun ho raha hai Punjab mei? Kyun log isme hi chaen dhoond rahein hain? These are the questions that the government should look into and get answers for. It would be great if the government could initiate a dialogue with the youngsters? Considering the fact that the youth is an integral part of a nation’s growth, why can’t the government speak to them? Why can’t they look for a solution to the long-standing issue of jobs insecurity in Punjab?”
Jatinder’s ‘Qissa Punjab’ which unravelled the lives of six young people, also dealt with Punjab drug epidemic. But he never faced any problem in getting CBFC’s approval. “The Censor Board had given me a U certificate. Unko koi problem nahi thi. They asked me to incorporate a few changes so that it could be shown to children below 18 years. But things do change when it comes to Hindi films as opposed to regional projects. Jitni problem ‘Udta Punjab’ ko leke hui hai utni meri film ke saath nahi hoti kyunki CBFC doesn’t take regional films that seriously. The fact that ‘Udta Punjab’ is a Bollywood film and features A-listers, its impact is huge.”
“Chahe Punjab mei bahut nasha hai ki baat ho ya Govt boley ki yeh hai nahi hai - yeh dono cheezein hi galat hai. To brand the youth as drug addicts and isolate them isn’t the correct strategy,” he adds.
Does the film ‘Udta Punjab’ with its defamatory references to those in Ludhiana, Jalandhar and other cities of Punjab, show Punjab in a bad light? “Filmmakers logon ko kis taraf leke jaana chatey hain yeh toh film dekhne ke bad hi pata chal sakta hai.”
Will the deletion of the word ‘Punjab’ from the film's title bring any solution? “Agar mention remove kar bhi dengey – kuch nahi hoga. Everybody is aware of what happens in Punjab.”