Udta Punjab: CBFC does not have power to censor films, says Bombay HC

The Bombay High Court on Monday observed that the CBFC does not have power to censor films. The Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC)’s suggested cuts to Udta Punjab, a film centred around the drug problem in Punjab that has stoked both a political and artistic debate.

The court further said that cuts suggested should be in consonance with Constitution and earlier Supreme Court orders.

Udta Punjab

“Udta Punjab is a movie depicting the drug menace based in a place. There is no mention of the word ‘censor’ in board. Board should use its powers as per Constitution and Supreme Court’s directions,”

the bench observed.

The court said it is in agreement with the producers of Udta Punjab, that the central theme is showing menace of drugs.

The court said the worth of a film should be viewed in its entirety instead of seeing isolated factors like dialogues, songs, lines, among other things. The court further said it is open for a creative person to choose the backdrop and setting for a film, and no one can dictate how to make a film.

Udta Punjab has been facing controversy ever since CBFC Chief Pahlaj Nihalani ordered 13 cuts, which included cutting down references to Punjab, elections, political parties and the reference in the name of the film.

Anurag Kashyap, one of the producers of the film, appealed to the Film Certification Appellate Tribunal (FCAT), after a Bombay high court order helped them receive the official letter from the CBFC informing them about the cuts.

Nihalani, who was in the eye of the storm over suggesting a very large number of cuts, said nine members of the Central Board of Film Certification watched the film and “unanimously” cleared it after the proposed 13 cuts.

The Abhishek Chaubey-directed film is tentatively scheduled for release on June 17.

The court also said that multiplexes audiences are mature enough to understand the content of such films and that all the hype was giving unnecessary publicity to the film.

The CBFC’s revising committee had suggested a number of changes in the movie, which stars Shahid Kapoor, Alia Bhatt, Kareena Kapoor-Khan and Diljit Dosanjh, and deals with the problem of drug addiction among youth in Punjab.

Makers of the film, Phantom Films, had challenged some of the CBFC’s suggested cuts in the high court, which included deleting references to Punjab, two graphically vulgar scenes and toning down an expletive-laden script.

The Bombay High Court on Thursday said that the movie “wants to save people” from drugs and “has not been made with a view to malign the state or its people”.