AKALI DAL, BJP DISTANCE THEMSELVES FROM ‘#UDTAPUNJAB’ ROW

CHANDIGARH (TIP): Punjab Deputy Chief Minister and Akali Dal President Sukhbir Singh Badal on June 9 asked the opposition to stop spreading canards about a ban on the release of ‘#UdtaPunjab’ movie. “It is absurd even to suggest a governmental intervention at this stage,” he said. “Neither Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal nor I, nor anyone else at political or administrative level in the government or the party has seen the film.

“So how can we take a call on whether or not the film would affect the peaceful atmosphere in the state by hurting the sentiments of Punjabis through a vulgar and humiliating presentation of the present day Punjab and Punjabis?” Sukbbir said in a statement.

The BJP also distanced itself from any role in the CBFC’s objections to the film’s content. “The government of Punjab and the political alliance of Akali Dal-BJP in the state have neither written any letter nor issued any statement (regarding the film). It is without any reason or logic, or due to vested interests, that our name is being dragged into this controversy,” said Vineet Joshi, assistant media adviser to the Punjab government and a BJP leader.

Meanwhile, the Bombay High Court on June 9 heard objections raised by the producers of the film Udta Punjab against cuts suggested by the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) and also heard the body’s justifications for the same.

The High Court sought an explanation from the Censor Board over its insistence on deleting the Punjab signboard in the film that deals with drugs. The CBFC submitted that all 13 changes, including deletion of Punjab in the film title, suggested by its revising committee were justified and proper.

Phantom Films and producer VikasBahl moved the HC against the 13 suggestions.

A Division Bench of Justices SC Dharmadhikari and ShaliniPhansalkar Joshi heard senior counsel Ravi Kadam appearing for the producers and Advocate AdvaitSethna representing CBFC.

The senior counsel said the cuts suggested by the body were central to the film. He argued that the standards of certification should evolve. The modern audience was mature and would not get depraved by references to drugs in the film.

Advocate AdvaitSethna, on the other hand, said that the cuts were suggested on the grounds of sovereignty, integrity and morality laid down by the law. The film was not suitable for unrestricted exhibition, he said. The court then asked how the integrity of the state would be affected by just pulling down one signboard.

The court also mentioned the film Go, Goa, Gone and said movies had got away with much worse in the past.

Politics has hotted up in Punjab on the issue. Punjab Congress president Amarinder Singh on June 9 announced he would release uncensored copies of Bollywood movie ‘Udta Punjab’ in Majitha town near Amritsar on June 17. The Congress leader said: “Majitha town, like Mexico, is the epicenter of drugs trade in Punjab. It was decided to release the movie there.” The movie’s release is scheduled for June 17.

AAP convener and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal wondered whether the word Punjab would be also removed from the national anthem. Kejriwal, whose party is looking to make inroads in the upcoming Punjab Assembly polls, claimed that by censoring the movie themed on drug abuse, the BJP-Akali Dal has “accepted defeat.”

“The way censorship is being done, the BJP, Narendra Modi, and Akali Dal have accepted their defeat in Punjab. Now the worry is how big would be their defeat. Will they be reduced to three seats like in Delhi?” he said.

In the entire film world in India, voices of resentment against PahlajNihalani, the president of the Certification and Censor Board have been growing with every passing day. However, given the past record of Central government which did not yield to cancel appointment of Gajendra Chauhan as Director of Film Institute, it appears unlikely that PahlajNihalani would be removed. Thus, both sides have to be prepared for a long drawn battle.

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