oppn parties Udta Punjab: CBFC Exceeding its Brief

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Udta Punjab: CBFC Exceeding its Brief

By Sunil Garodia

About the Author

Sunil Garodia Editor-in-Chief of indiacommentary.com. Current Affairs analyst and political commentator. Writes for a number of publications.
By objecting to the word “Punjab” in the title of the film “Udta Punjab” and then objecting to references to real places in the film, the Central Board for Film Certification is again assuming a role for which it is not created. It is there to certify a film; it should not and cannot censor it. In fact, the Shyam Benegal committee has recommended as much. A film can either be fit for certification or not. The CBFC cannot say that certain things should be deleted for certification.

In the case of Udta Punjab, the biggest tragedy is that politicians are acting like ostriches. Everyone knows about the seriousness of the drug problem in the state. The media in the state has been carrying out investigations and publishing news stories highlighting the menace. Newspapers have been writing fiery editorials calling upon the ruling class to act before the situation reaches beyond redemption levels. It is a social problem and filmmakers are within their rights to highlight it. To call it an attempt to insult Punjab or Sikhs is stretching things too far.

If a fictional story is woven around a social problem to highlight how the youth is being targeted and how the drug mafia has spread its tentacles in the high echelons of power, it should be seen as an attempt by the filmmaker to create awareness about the evil and should shake the authorities into doing something about it. But, as usual, any truth that is seen to harm the ruling class is being sought to be suppressed. At this rate, no meaningful film will get made in our diverse country because somewhere there will be a group that will object to the whole or any part of the narrative, or even individual words.

Though freedom of speech and expression as guaranteed by Article 19 of the Indian constitution is tempered by several restrictions, the main reason why films are banned or asked to be “rectified” is their alleged potential to cause conflict between communities. This is a very tricky restriction as in India, even a group of few thousand people can start a vicious campaign to deny millions from watching a work of fictional art. Is this fair?