The fate of Abhishek Chaubey's Udta Punjab remains jinxed by unforeseeable events.
In an unfortunate turn of events, early morning today, a copy of the film that was submitted to the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC, popularly referred to as the Censor Board) found its way on several torrent sites.
While the producers have filed a complaint with the Cyber Crime cell in Mumbai, all fingers currently point towards a leak from the CBFC itself.
The Pahlaj Nihalani-led Board has been entangled in a bitter battle with Udta Punjab's makers after the former suggested 89 cuts in the film. Refusing to bow down to its diktats, the makers took the CBFC to court and won the case.
On Wednesday evening, as per the court order, the film's censor certificate finally arrived, two days before its slated release. A picture was tweeted out by one of its stars, Shahid Kapoor.
The court battle has affected a considerable financial strain on the film's producers, who have been struggling to exhibit the film in its entirety so it's highly unlikely that they'd themselves leak the film (it's a 60-crore project, and piracy is one of the biggest deterrents for a film's box-office collections.)
Meanwhile, the Board literally has acted in a manner that suggests it has an axe to grind with Udta Punjab as the Bombay High Court minced no words while putting it in its place.
Justice Dharamadhikari, in the court ruling, had also scolded the CBFC counsel saying, "Why are you troubling them unnecessarily?" as the Board went out of its way to sabotage Udta Punjab's release.
While both Balaji Motion Pictures and Phantom Films, its producers, remained mum on the recent controversy, a source told HuffPost India that their anti-piracy wing has gotten pro-active on the leak and since afternoon, has pulled down as many as 600 links.
Said the source, "Two copies of the CD were sent to the CBFC and this version is from the same source. It's literally a no-brainer to conclude where the leak has come from and, sure enough, the cyber crime cell will get to the bottom of this."
However, quite a few people on social media have accused the Censor Board of deliberately sabotaging Udta Punjab.
Udta Punjab leaked online.— P*kch**p*k R*j* Babu (@HaramiParindey) June 15, 2016
Seeders : CBFC board members
Leechers : Entire India
Udta Punjab movie leaked online by someone in Censor Board who want to teach producers of Movie a lesson! Is it Nihalani?— Kapil (@kapsology) June 15, 2016
CBFC HAS LEAKED THE UDTA PUNJAB MOVIE ONLINE!— Shan (@klpe) June 15, 2016
If it is conclusively proven that the CBFC is behind the leak, the incident would be a serious breach of protocol that would merit strong action against the Board. However, there's a good possibility that there could be a middleman who may have got his hands on the copy meant for CBFC and uploaded the film on the Internet.
This isn't the first instance of a censor copy getting leaked on to the Internet. Nagraj Manjule's Sairat also suffered the same problem last month. Nitin Keni, one of its producers, told Mumbai Mirror that the leak had affected the film's business by "at least 10 per cent".
In either case, it's potentially damaging to the makers who have fought an exhausting battle just to ensure the film releases in the way it was envisaged, in cinema halls.
The film, whose censor certificate arrived on Wednesday evening, opens in theatres this Friday.
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