The Abhishek Chaubey-directed Udta Punjab, starring Shahid Kapoor, Kareena Kapoor, Alia Bhatt and Diljit Dosanjh, has stirred up a massive controversy with the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC), popularly referred to as the Censor Board. However contrary to what has been widely reported, the film has NOT been banned by the Censor Board.
The Examining Committee (EC), which is the first leg of the screening process before a certificate is allotted to the makers, saw the film last week. The members had a difference of opinion as some felt the profanities in Udta Punjab, used largely by Shahid Kapoor's character, aren't appropriate and demanded cuts. A DNA report, quoting a source, said the EC wanted as many as 40 cuts including a song and scenes of drug abuse.
Some reports have also claimed that the Board’s refusal to give certification to the film is politically motivated. As elections approach in Punjab, the issues of rampant drug abuse, especially among the youth (the film's main theme) has emerged as a crucial issue.
The cuts weren't acceptable to the film's production house -- Phantom and Balaji Motion Pictures -- who were okay with an 'Adult' certificate as long as the film was left as it is, a source familiar with the development told HuffPost.
The makers now have the option of going to Revising Committee. If the RC also recommends major cuts that are not acceptable to the film's producer, then they can move to Film Certification Appellate Tribunal (FCAT), a Board that operates out of New Delhi.
However, in Udta Punjab's case, the producers have decided to skip the RC process altogether and directly approach the FCAT.
In a telephonic conversation with HuffPost India, co-producer Anurag Kashyap said, "I've been through the Revising Committee many times [with previous films] and I'd rather skip it because I don't want to get into negotiations with them, ki yeh rakho, woh kaat do (keep this, take that out) etc. When you believe in a film, you want the film to come out completely intact."
He added, "I want to follow a democratic process. Sometimes, with the RC, it doesn't feel democratic, because they take their decision and call you in. In the FCAT, you can present your point of view and make your case for why certain scenes or lines in the film are important."
However, the main glitch here is time, which the makers are running out of since the release date is fast approaching.
Said Kashyap, "The usual process takes a month, month and a half, and we're still trying to figure out how we can go directly to the FCAT, because the release date is coming up soon. Now it's the weekend, so we'll probably find out on Monday."
Anurag Shrivastav, CEO of the Censor Board, told Mid-Day, "It's a normal process and I don't understand why this ruckus is being created. There were some differences among members of the EC, so we had referred the film to the RC. But the makers have directly gone to FCAT which will now take a decision."
Now, if the FCAT also rejects the film (it does so in extreme situations -- like a film that'd potentially create a law and order problem, communal disharmony etc). Then, it would mean that Udta Punjab has been banned -- by the Censor Board, not by the country itself.
The producers can approach the Supreme Court and if the Supreme Court feels that Udta Punjab is a piece of filmmaking that would cause major havoc in the country, then the film will be considered officially banned by India.
The SC has complete authority to uplift the ban invoked by the Censor Board.
Not that it's not happened, but it's extremely rare for a film to be officially banned.
Most people, including multiple news outlets, jump the gun as it is fashionable to stand by something that's being 'banned' by the government. Nothing wrong with doing so but at least that decision should come before one starts fighting for an invisible cause.
Kashyap explained this in a series of tweets he posted today.
For the record ,"Udta Punjab" is not banned. The examining committe has deferred the decision to Revising and due process is on.— Anurag Kashyap (@anuragkashyap72) May 28, 2016
And due process takes it own time so please abstain for spreading a BAN rumour. There is nothing to speak on the subject as of now.— Anurag Kashyap (@anuragkashyap72) May 28, 2016
A film is banned only when examining, revising and FCAT all three refuse certificate . And then you fight it out in Supreme Court— Anurag Kashyap (@anuragkashyap72) May 28, 2016
While one can only wait and watch what happens to Udta Punjab, due for release on June 17, director Abhishek Chaubey had rightly anticipated the CBFC trouble.
In a recent interview with HuffPost, the director revealed that most Bollywood studios were apprehensive of funding his drugs-drama because of its edgy content that could pose a problem with the Censor Board.
And that's precisely what's happening right now.