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Filmmakers unite, say 'I am Udta Punjab' at the press conference protesting CBFC diktats

The film fraternity came together and protested the censorship of the current CBFC board at the press conference by the Udta Punjab team. 

Mayur Lookhar

At the press conference held by the Udta Punjab team on the Indian Film and Television Directors' Association, filmmakers from all genres united in solidarity against the practice of censorship. 

Imtiaz Ali, Anurag Kashyap, Mahesh Bhatt, Mukesh Bhatt, Shahid Kapoor, Ashoke Pandit, Satish Kaushik were among the members on the dais to speak out against the current practices in the CBFC and the handling of the film's certification. Sudhir Mishra, Zoya Akhtar, Anand L Rai and Ramesh Taurani were among the other prominent names present at the conference.

Anurag Kashyap led the defence by saying that the practice of censorship is a malaise that needs to be cured. The director said "Har baar ek nayi government aayi, Naya censor board Chief aaya ... When Nihalani came on board, it gave us a lot of hope as we felt here was some one amongst us who has been made chief. ... they (CBFC) want to delay our films till the filmmaker resigns and accepts their reccomendations... we send our films to be certified not to have cuts" . He added, "It is a matter of sadness that we are being questioned for our sincerity".

The director denied any claims of the board that the certificate had been prepared by the board, but had not been picked up by the filmmakers. He said that only the audience had the right to reject a film, not the censors.

Mahesh Bhatt supported Anurag by saying "Without the freedom of dissent, the freedom of expression is nothing." 

Producer Mukesh Bhatt went a step further by proposing that Pahlaj Nihalani be removed from his position as the head of the CBFC, on account of the rumours he has been spreading about the filmmakers. The producer said "This is an act of holding one by ransom."

Countering Nihalani's suggestions that Kashyap had taken money to defame the state of Punjab, Anurag Kashyap added " He (Nihalani) has been speaking lies after lies today... I feel ashamed to have to defend something like this." 

Satish Kaushik answered the question about why the film fraternity had not united against such practices before when he said "Earlier, we used to lend our support to the filmmakers, but were afraid to speak up. However, for the first time a film has united us." 

Shahid Kapoor, the lead actor of the film, suggested that in the age of information and technology "If the youth of a country are not allowed to be informed, then there is a problem. The youth has the right to know that drugs are a menace...The message delivered in the film needs to be reported... The film kind of becomes the face of the fight which has been going on for several years... We are here to ask that people be allowed to express their opinions, in 2016...Let's make sure we stick to what this country stands for and what everybody here is trying to fight for."

The team of Udta Punjab also circulated the plea for certification which they had sent out to the CBFC. The letter, sent by Phantom Films Pvt. Ltd (Anurag Kashyap's company) states that the filmmakers had completed all requested formalities by 1 June, 2016. However, the revising committee did not examine the film till 3 June, and has not yet provided certification for it. 

The letter also quotes the producers as saying that they have spent Rs 5 crore on promotions across 1000 theatres and 1800 screens for the film. The delay in certification and release of the film will result in huge losses for the filmmakers and the team of Udta Punjab. The letter requests the CBFC to provide a certification, or their answer, within 24 hours. 

Speaking on the objections of the board, Kashyap clarified "(They) want the word Punjab to be totally cut from the entire film." He also said " We haven't really counted, but there must be around 94 cuts." 

As of today, the team of Udta Punjab team has filed their grievance at the Film Certification and Appellate Tribunal (FCAT). The board is required to provide the tribunal with the objectionable content. The producers have claimed that CBFC is taking its own time causing irreparable damage and delays to the film. 

Udta Punjab was scheduled to release on 17 June, but will likely be delayed due to the issue.