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Don’t be over-sensitive, Bombay HC tells CBFC, clears Udta Punjab with one little cut

The disclaimer will now state that the film does not promote or encourage use of expletives or drugs by any person, and that the film does not depict any particular state.

Written by Ruhi Bhasin | Mumbai |
June 14, 2016 3:39:34 am
udta punjab, udta punjab row, censor board, cbfc, shahid kapoor, karan johar, udta punjab news, bombay high court, anurag kashyap film, india news, latest news Udta Punjab director Abhishek Chaubey with his advocate outside the Bombay High Court, Monday. (Express Photo by Ganesh Shirsekar)

Providing relief to producers of Udta Punjab, the Bombay High Court Monday agreed to only one of the 13 cut suggested by the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) — a scene that shows the protagonist urinating in public. The court also asked for a modification in the film’s disclaimer and said that the “film board need not be oversensitive in the matter of art”.

The disclaimer will now state that the film does not promote or encourage use of expletives or drugs by any person, and that the film does not depict any particular state. Further, a mention of another country has been removed from the disclaimer.

Asserting that the film must be evaluated in its entirety, the court told the board, “It will not be permissible to see isolated factors and pick up some lines, songs, dialogues.”

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The court said that there was no denying the fact that the film depicted the drug menace. “The backdrop chosen is Punjab. It is open for a creative person to choose the backdrop, setting and story line. No one can dictate how and what the content of the film should be,” said the court.

“The board is not necessarily empowered to censor films. The word censor is not found in the Cinematograph Act. The board can make changes in the film but this power must be exercised in consonance with Constitutional Guarantee and Supreme Court orders,” Justice S C Dharmadhikari pointed out.

udta punjab, udta punjab row, censor board, cbfc, shahid kapoor, karan johar, udta punjab news, bombay high court, anurag kashyap film, india news, latest news Asserting that the film must be evaluated in its entirety, the court told the board, “It will not be permissible to see isolated factors and pick up some lines, songs, dialogues.”

While the board sought a stay on the order, the court turned down its request and said the CBFC must issue the requisite certificate to the film within 48 hours of the order so it can be released as per schedule.

READ | Udta Punjab: Censor Board CEO welcomes Bombay HC ruling

Observing that filmmakers of this generation will take some liberties and chart their own course, Justice Dharmadhikari said, “It will result in disruption to stop them abruptly. This will discourage them. If their work is interfered with continuously, it will lead to an extreme reaction… to set standards, you cannot be harsh with them. Suggesting many cuts would be counter-productive.”

A division bench of Justice Dharmadhikari and Justice Shalini Phansalkar Joshi was hearing a plea filed by Anurag Kashyap’s production house, Phantom Films, challenging 13 cuts suggested by the censor board to the movie.

The court asked the board why it wanted to removed a scene with a Punjab signboard if it was okay with retaining the word Punjab in the film’s title. “We do not find anything in the script which questions the sovereignty and integrity of the country or the state,” observed the court, giving similar reasons for not deleting names of towns and cities in Punjab from the dialogues.

On the removal of some expletives from the film’s songs and dialogues, the court pointed out that the story had no relation to real life, and had fictional characters with the drug menace serving as the backdrop. It added that the song lyrics and dialogues should be seen in context of the film’s story.

Observing that these words did violate “some of the guidelines in terms of violating human sensitivity offended by vulgarity”, the court added, “The work has to be viewed in its entirety.”

READ | Udta Punjab verdict a slap on PM Modi’s ‘intolerant’ regime: Arvind Kejriwal

Justice Dharmadhikari, however, said the court agreed with the CBFC counsel Advait Sethna’s rationale that just because such curse words were allowed in earlier movies does not mean they should be allowed in every film. “Everything must depend on individual circumstances. Every film is viewed on the basis of its theme, story, entertainment value, etc. We are of the view that such cuss words should be allowed here,” the court said.

Saying that he would have preferred if such words were not used, Justice Dharmadhikari said, “With experience and passage of time, filmmakers should choose better words, and the utility of such words is best left to the audience. Eventually, story and content is important and there is no need to use such words in every dialogue.”

“There is social media, 24×7 television serials. All this needs to hold the attention of the audience. We do not find they (filmmakers) will be able to do so if they continue to use expletives and downgrade the quality of their material. They need to strike a balance and subserve to larger public interest as they also have a duty to perform,” said the court.

READ | Relieved with the verdict; struggle now to release Udta Punjab on June 17: Abhishek Chaubey

On the board’s demand the words such as ‘election’, ‘MP’, ‘MLA’ and ‘party’ be deleted, the court said the film as a whole did not seem to target Punjab and its representatives. “Seven states will go to elections in 2017, out of which Punjab is one. The film does not seem to have been made keeping this in mind,” observed the court.

Regarding another cut of a scene which shows a Sardar scratching himself, the court said it was just a passing shot and “does not show anyone in a bad light”. Similarly, it said that close-up shots of drugs being injected did not encourage the use of drugs.

The court also pulled up both sides for creating what it called an unnecessary controversy and pointed out that the court’s time “is too precious for this case”.

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