Ever since its trailer came out, Abhishek Chaubey's Udta Punjab has been consistently courting controversy.
While the Examining Committee of the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) demanded reported 40 cuts, the Revising Committee, which saw the film last Friday, said they couldn't include the word 'Punjab' in the film. It recommended that the film be shown as set in a fictional land and not the North Indian state.
Predictably, the makers were baffled as the whole point of the film is to illustrate the problem of drug abuse plaguing Punjab -- not Rajasthan or Maharashtra or any other state. Times Now, quoting sources, also reported that the RC has demanded as many as 89 cuts from the film, which the makers aren't agreeing to.
A highly-placed source from the film's production house revealed that the Censor Board is crumbling under political pressures from the Akali Dal (the ruling party in Punjab, headed by the state's Chief Minister Prakash Singh Badal), who fear a public backlash once the film is released. "They don't want the film to be anti-Punjab which they think it is. So the RC recommended that wherever there is mention of Punjab, it be deleted. Surprisingly, the name 'Punjab' isn't said too often, it just forms the backdrop."
To reach a solution, the RC has agreed to meet the makers -- Abhishek Chaubey, Anurag Kashyap, Ekta Kapoor, Vikas Bahl -- to listen to their point of view. "This meeting is going to be a deciding factor in what the next few days will entail. Both Balaji and Phantom are very sure that they aren't going to settle for any cuts, definitely not something as substantial as this."
And what if the Censor Board is adamant? "The makers will approach the FCAT [Film Certification Appellate Tribunal]. The whole point of going to RC was to save time with the hope that they won't be too harsh. If that's defeated there won't be any alternative but to approach FCAT."
The FCAT, a statutory body under the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting, is generally perceived as being more liberal than the CBFC, having overturned some of the Board's harsher decisions in the past. But being the long process that it is, will the makers risk a delay in the film's release? "If it has to be delayed, yes, they will. But there's no point presenting a diluted version -- the film will lose its essence."
Update: On Monday evening, News 18 reported that the film may now release on July 15 as opposed to the planned June 17.
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