Chandigarh: The controversy over Abhishek Chaubey-directed 'Udta Punjab', which has run into trouble with the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) over references to Punjab and the drugs racket in the state, is getting bigger by the day.
On a day that the Bombay High Court pulled up CBFC over the movie, which deals with the menace of drugs in the state, Punjab Congress president Amarinder Singh on Thursday announced that he will release uncensored copies of Bollywood film in Majitha town near Amritsar in the state on June 17.
The Congress leader said, "Majitha town, like Mexico, is the epicentre of drugs trade in Punjab. It was decided to release the movie there."
The movie's release is scheduled for June 17.
Amarinder said he has written to movie's producers Anurag Kashyap and Ekta Kapoor, urging them to provide copies of the uncensored movie on compact discs so that he can release it simultaneously with its worldwide premiere.
"The purpose of releasing the movie in Majitha is to tell the (ruling) Akalis and the BJP that no matter to what extent they try to go to gag the truth, I will expose it at any cost," Amarinder said in a statement, as per IANS.
"Not only do we want to highlight the harsh reality of Punjab, but also assert the right to freedom of speech and expression guaranteed by our Constitution, which is being infringed upon by the BJP at the behest of the Akalis, using the censor board," the Congress leader said in the letter to the producers.
Amarinder also clarified to the movie's producers that all the legal onus of releasing the uncensored CDs of the movie will be on him only.
"I guarantee you that I will take the entire responsibility of the legal implications, if any, for releasing the uncensored CDs as we want the truth to be told, no matter at what price," he said.
He said Majitha town in Amritsar district had become synonymous with 'chitta' (synthetic drug, in common parlance) that has affected an entire generation in Punjab.
The Congress leader clarified that in order to ensure that the commercial interests of the producers are not hurt, the movie will be shown only on the day of the release at Majitha, as a protest and defiance against what he called was the "dictatorial attitude" of the CBFC, and also in border areas as people there rarely get a chance to watch the movies in theatres.
Meanwhile, the Bombay HC today posted the petition filed by Phantom films, one of the producers of the movie, for further hearing on Friday.
The HC allowed the company to amend its petition, allowing them to challenge the censor board's order suggesting 13 cuts in the film.
Slamming the board, the HC asked, "Are you suggesting that the movie depicts Punjab as only a drug capital? Is that your case that all 13 suggestions by CBFC are bad? How can you ask them to delete words like MP, MLA, Election?"
With the 'Udta Punjab' issue turning into a battle between co-producer Kashyap and CBFC chairperson Pahlaj Nihalani, the producers had yesterday moved the HC seeking a copy of the order of the Censor Board Review Committee report on the film.
The CBFC is said to have demanded an alteration of the narrative with as many as 89 cuts.
The makers were apparently even asked to drop 'Punjab' from the title and it was suggested that the film be set in a fictitious backdrop instead of a particular state.
Sources close to the Censor Board indicate towards political pressure being put in wake of the Punjab assembly elections to be held early next year, as per ANI.
On the other hand, Kashyap said today that he felt blackmailed throughout his battle with the Censor Board over the certification for his upcoming movie.
Kashyap said in all his previous run-ins with either the board or the government, he never felt he was being silenced, but this particular case was different.
"... I never felt that I was being silenced or blackmailed into doing something against my will. All those battles were a fair fight of belief systems, all those fights were not being lost, not knowing what's going on. All those battles we knew who and what the enemy was, be it a person, a thought or just the understanding of the board. This one is different. This was blackmail, this has been a wall of lies. We got the official letter in a day after going to press and immediately after the first hearing of the court," he posted on Facebook.
Kashyap's fresh post came hours after he along with other leading Bollywood celebrities held a joint press meet to express their anger towards board's objections to certain portions of the film, which is based on substance abuse in North Punjab and its effect on youth.
The "Bombay Velvet" director said Pahlaj Nihalani has been lying and pressuring them to delay the release of the film, slated to hit theatres on June 17.
"I have a signed acknowledgment from Mr Nihalani's office dated yesterday 7th June, which requests him to give us the official copy. So him saying he gave the letter on Monday is a lie and proof of all his lies. Him pressurising us to delay release, and accepting cuts is and was a thought through strategy. His accusing me of taking money from AAP is not just a lie, is a diversion from the real issue to make the fight for a filmmaker's right into a political battle. And in this he is being helped by all the trolls to make sure that the real issue somewhere is lost in the political blame game," as per PTI.
Kashyap requested his fans to not believe in the gossip being spread online while also making it clear that he had no political affiliation.
"I request to not get involved in any rumour mongering and let us stick to the real honest issue of freedom of expression and free thought and our rights as film makers versus the censorship. No I am not a member of AAP or Congress not do I associate with any other political party. I have made more films without a fees than anyone else and I don't take money that is not earned from anyone."
Co-produced by Phantom Films and Balaji Motion Pictures, ' Udta Punjab' stars Shahid Kapoor, Alia Bhatt, Kareena Kapoor Khan and Punjabi singer- actor Diljit Dosanjh.
(With Agency inputs)