In 2016, the CBFC demanded a whopping 89 cuts in the film ‘Udta Punjab’
Starring Shahid Kapoor, Kareena Kapoor and Alia Bhat, ‘Udta Punjab’ takes on the difficult issue of rampant drug addiction in the state of Punjab. The Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC), headed by Pahlaj Nihalani, controversially demanded significant cuts, including removing all references to Punjab from the film. Apart from deleting abusive works, the board also asked for the removal of words like ‘MLA’, ‘elections’, ‘Parliament’ and so on.
This decision may have been politically motivated owing to the nexus between Nihalani and BJP
Pahlaj Nihalani is known to be aligned with BJP, which currently rules in Punjab in a coalition with the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD). Owing to this political nexus, the CBFC’s demands over ‘Udta Punjab’ were criticised for seemingly helping the Punjab government sweep the issue under the carpet in order to help them win the 2017 Punjab state elections.
Pahlaj Nihalani defended the decision but came under fire from the film fraternity
Nihalani stated that the cuts demanded were not his ruling but that of a CBFC examination committee. However, Bollywood personalities like Mahesh Bhatt and Karan Johar slammed CBFC for suppressing freedom of expression, while ‘Udta Punjab’ producer Anurag Kashyap went as far as to compare Nihalani to the North Korean Dictator Kim Jong Un.
The film producers approached the Bombay HC seeking relief from CBFC’s decision
The filmmakers had been asked to make all the changes before the expected release date of June 17th. Unwilling to comply, the producers decided to go to court to fight their case, arguing that CBFC had completely exceeded its mandate in demanding such far-reaching cuts.
The Bombay HC ruled in favour of the filmmakers
In a major victory for the film producers, the Bombay High Court on June 13th, directed CBFC to issue the film an ‘A’ certificate with just one scene cut. It also noted that the film does not defame Punjab and that CBFC’s job is to certify films, not censor them.