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Udta Punjab Row – Political Intrusion, Fight for FoE or Something Else?

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Written by Niladri Bose

It is quite obvious that something is amiss in the ongoing tussle between Anurag Kashyap and the CBFC chief Pahlaj Nihalani, in regards to Anurag’s movie Udta Punjab. The film seems to be based on the rampant drug problem in the state of Punjab. And direct attribution to the state and the issue seems to have irked the Central Board of Film Certification. Though their primary job is not to censor but to provide an appropriate certificate, we have seen many times in the past that the board interferes with the content of a film itself, recommending multiple cuts before handing out a certification.

Therefore, if we are to believe that CBFC has asked to remove references of Punjab and/or recommended other cuts from the movie at the behest of the BJP or the Badals, it is only going to backfire. It is quite well known now that the more you clamp down on art, cinema in this case, the more it will have a lasting impact. Censorship has a psychological effect on humans. And it’s rebellious in nature, more often than not. Therefore with the growth of this controversy, the popularity of the film grows too. I thought that experienced parties like the BJP or the Akalis would know this.

And there lies my confusion.

The director of the film took to Twitter to express his anger at what’s going on. Now anybody who’s familiar with the social media know that any controversy nowadays, especially involving Bollywood and Indian Politics, attract a lot of attention, including that of the trolls. From the Tweets, I get a feeling that Anurag is trying to do a balancing act. At one end, he is hitting out at the board, the Government & the right-wing trolls, thus attracting more of them. And on the other, cautioning the left-wing ones to not interfere and use him as a political weapon, thus attracting their attention too.

In reality though, all he needs to do (if he is really not interested in getting into the muddy waters of politics & controversies) is to appeal to the Film Certification Appellate Tribunal as an aggrieved party, provide them with his side of the argument and get the censorship revoked or go to the High Court directly. From his tone, he seems confident of his case and thus one would think that either or both of the above two options would get him the justice he seemingly deserves. Simply meaning, Pahlaj Nihalani is not the last word in film censorship in India and as an experienced director, Anurag Kashyap must be aware of that.

So why do we see him on Twitter, going on and on about it? Like an estranged wife cheated by her husband – “I have all our texts” or “Picked a wrong person” or a loud-mouth hoping to create an unnecessary political storm – “fought with UPA more” or “paid trolls” or “agent of Congress or AAP”. What exactly is this squeaking for? Is he expecting CBFC to read these, get scared & reverse their decision? Or is it just an expression of his anguish? Do we expect a seasoned director, who has had many such altercations with the board before, to not know what to do in a situation like this?

I am not sure. What do you think? Let us know your thoughts below!

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