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“Udta Punjab” is an upcoming Indian crime thriller starring based on the excessive drug use in the Indian state of Punjab. It is scheduled to release on June 17, 2016. Due to the serious nature of the film’s content, it has stirred controversy in India for various reasons, primary being that debate that the movie should be banned. Also Read - Akshay Kumar's Laxmmi Bomb Title is Now 'Laxmii' After Wide Backlash For Hurting Hindu Sentiments
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The film stars Shahid Kapoor as a drug-addled Punjabi rockstar, Alia Bhatt as a migrant and drug peddler, Kareena Kapoor-Khan as a doctor and Diljit Dosanjh as a police officer wanting to stop the drug market. Kapoor, Bhatt, and Kapoor-Khan slashed their pay in half for the film. Kapoor-Khan has spoken out about the importance of addressing social justice issues through movies like this one and hopes the film will spark a change in India.
After much debate, the Bombay High Court asked the Central Board of Film Certification today to clear the film with just one cut, of a urination scene, and a changed disclaimer.
The Court said, “The film just depicts the drug situation in Punjab and does not defame the northern state. It is completely in the hands of the makers to choose the setting, pattern and theme of the film. The blanket ban on the movie ‘Udta Punjab’ cannot be justified.”
Here are some important facts to know about the movie and its content:
1. Drug Problem
The film focuses on the rampant drug problem in Punjab. Some say Punjab is being defamed and therefore there is a solid backlash against the film. They even wanted to ban the use of the word Punjab from the film.
However, the sad fact is the youth in Punjab is addicted to chitta (a combination of various pharmaceutical products), a drug that provides a bigger high than heroin and crystal meth. Sixty percent of all drugs confiscated in India come from Punjab. A recent study states that 230,000 people in the state of Punjab are drug users. A majority of them lie in the age range of 15-35. A large percentage of drug users are HIV positive. Unemployment and easy access to medication without a prescription are the main reasons for this high drug use.
The movie has been battling the CFBC. They wanted green light the film only if 13 major cuts were made, including blacking out all references to Punjab in the film and cutting out all the abusive language. The total number of cuts requested hovered around 89. The board wanted all drug-related references removed from the movie. Firstly, this would render the message of this movie moot because it aims at making citizens aware of the drug problem in Punjab, the main items they want to ban. Secondly, they assume the audiences are not going to understand what is being said if it’s muted out. Third thing, our outlook on freedom of expression needs a solid revision.
3. Legal Matters
Luckily, the Mumbai High Court is on the side of filmmakers and is reminding the board that their job is to certify films and not censor them. The court does not agree with them and argues that the filmmakers have a right to mention places and people and it’s up to audience members to decide whether or not they want to watch this movie. The court also rejected the board’s demand to put a stay on the film’s release.
“Udta Punjab” co-producer Anurag Kashyap was okay with a few cuts. When the board asked for several more, he wasn’t having it. In fact, Kashyap has called for the censor board chief Pahalaj Nihalani to be sacked. A petition for the same on Change.org and started by Bangalore’s Shriya Desai, which refers to him as ’embarrassed the movie industry’ has already received 30,000 signatures.
5. Celebrity Support
Bollywood stars have spoken out in big numbers against the censorship the board is trying to enforce. Aamir Khan reinforced the concept of freedom of speech saying ‘every Indian should have this right’ and that the movie is based on a drug addiction and delivers a social message.
These are some more reactions: