Udta Punjab has not been given a censor certificate by our dear Indian Censor Board, citing reasons like the movie having too many “cuss words, violence and drug abuse portrayal”. The news has obviously created shock waves across the board with all the intellectuals (and pseudo-intellectuals) going berserk. This is more surprising though considering the fact that the same censor board were very liberal with the R-rated trailer being broadcast online! So why the sudden change?!
Censor-board in India has a standard operating procedure (SOP) document which needs to be followed by the five-membered team reviewing a particular movie. Their job is to see whether the movie matches the SOP and then, deciding whether the movie is eligible to be shown in theatres. According to reports, three members of the Censor board had suggested only a few cuts in the film, but the fourth member dug in his heels, demanding a much higher number of cuts. Despite efforts of the regional officer to reach a solution, the four stuck to their stand. The makers of the film have currently moved to a tribunal to resolve the issue, that will decide whether the film will be released or should be banned. The main problem of the censor board in my opinion – poor representation of the society! The members are either retired people or probably those officials with orthodox thinking who don’t even have much knowledge about the neo-noir or realistic cinema beyond the routine song and dance. What to be expected from a movie made on drug abuse?! No drugs?! What is the use of making a movie against drug abuse when you don’t portray the negative aspects of the same on the society?! How do you expect the lingo of a village labourer to be?! All classy without any cuss words?! How do you expect the police guys to interrogate the criminals or the drug peddlers ?! I am sure all the censor board members must have used strong language themselves at least once in their lifetime!
Another important reason for the movie’s suppression is probably political. Akali Dal, one of the major political parties in Punjab, has already stated about their reservations against Udta Punjab and how it puts the state in bad light.The movie claims that 2.32 lakh people are addicted to drugs in Punjab. That is roughly 1.2% of Punjab’s population. But there are 8.6 lakh people who have used drugs at least once in their lifetime in the state. That’s 4.5% of the population. In a state where there are just 1.9 crore people, 8.6 lakh is a massive number. And, it’s growing. Akali Dal claim that the numbers are actually less than 0.1%! But why to oppose the release of the film then?! Its like banning any gangster movie based in Mumbai cause that will portray the city to be a gangster land!
The freedom of movies has always been questionable in India. Some waves of good news pour in with movies like Sairat being accepted unanimously but then drug abuse is an important issue too which has not been addressed by the film industry cause they know that either the censor board or the government will surely stop them or put major roadblocks for the same. I hope that someday I see a movie like Requiem for a Dream or Trainspotting released in India and send a message against the important problem of youths being engulfed by drug abuse. Amen.