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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2042

Censor Board Fails to Ground Udta Punjab

By Allabaksh - Syndicate Features

They were making a film on Punjab which was supposed to be flying ‘high’ with its drug problem. The government-appointed censor board did not like it and clipped its wings, nearly grounding the film titled ‘Udata Punjab’ by its producers. But the censor board, especially its chief Pahlaj Nihalani, a self-confessed ‘chamcha’ of Narendra Modi, achieved just the opposite of what was intended by seeking many cuts in the film—89 in all with the strict order that the word ‘Punjab’ is deleted from the film altogether.

Criticism in the media or the film industry does not bother Nihalani who in a short span of time has fended off many controversies. The censor board and his position are safe. The demand for abolishing the censor board and replace it by a system of self-regulation is unlikely to be accepted. Self-regulation has not worked for the Indian TV industry. Besides, Nihalani’s brief is to protect the ‘Indian culture’ from being destroyed by the ‘progressive’ and ‘liberal’ film makers. It is a happy world for Nihalani.

He obviously thinks that a film like Udata Punjab should not be a talking movie. Its message is best delivered silently and perhaps without any title. After all, we should not be talking loudly about the drug menace. Those who are allegedly out to malign the state say that along with drug addition, there has been an attempt to revive militancy in the state. If these are serious problems then they should be talked about in hush-hush tones!

People say that drug addiction in Punjab is a ‘sad’ reality but the ruling SAD-BJP combine thinks it is not. At best—or worse—people in the state may still love their ‘Patiala Peg’, but nothing else to get ‘high’.

It has been reported that there are over two lakh drug addicts in the state who spend nearly Rs 20 crore a day on the stuff. Those figures are disputed by the state government. And why not? In a state that is known for its profligacy and carries the debt burden of more than Rs 1.25 lakh core, Rs 20 crore a day is small change. There is no question of Punjab becoming ‘bankrupt’ as long as it has a patron in Delhi.

Protests from the film makers and many in the film fraternity made sure that more people knew about the film and its theme than the censor board wanted. However, the censor board can neither make sure that Punjab’s drug problem goes away nor can it help the SAD-BJP government in Punjab by passing orders against the film.

The film makers, not the censor people, would have been pleased by the miles of publicity after the fiat from the censor board chief on the many cuts in the film. Whether its release is delayed or not the film is bound to be well received at the box office—unless there is a complete ban on it.

Nihalani used his prescience to declare that the controversy over film was financed by Aam Admi Party. There can be no doubt that the Aam Admi Party has a dirty tricks department. But what does not square up is that it should provide money for something that, in Nihalani’s words, projects a bad image of Punjab. How come?

In the state assembly polls, due early next year, the ruling SAD-BJP combination will in all likelihood face challenge from the traditional rival, the Congress party, and the new kid on the block, the Aam Admi Party. If AAP is to fight in the state, it cannot be so foolish as to pay money for ‘defaming’ the people of the state.

The controversy over the film may have assured welcome publicity to the film, but it has also shown the censor board chief in poor light—not for the first time, though. Nihalani has every right to subscribe to his political views but he gets into trouble when he wants the entire film industry to fall in line. He seems to be trying to convert the censor board into an extension of the Sangh Parivar, perhaps encouraged by the fact that since 2014, a lot many people from the film industry, both present and former film stars, have joined the ranks of ‘Modi Bhakts’.

This may have added to the following of Modi but it also speaks something about the political opportunism of the film stars. Perhaps the biggest ‘catch’ for the BJP has been ‘Big B’, Amitabh Bachhan, who after a long association with the leaders of the Congress party came close to the Samajwadi Party, particularly Amar Singh who has been in and out of the party. By participating in the second birthday bash of the ruling party recently he exhibited his proximity to Narendra Modi. It was seen by many as a wise move in view of the Panama paper controversy.

But his presumed proximity to Modi may have caused him some embarrassment. In criticising Nihalani, Amitabh Bachhan could be accused of taking an indirect dig at his current political idol. So all he has to say about the Udata Punjab kerkuffle is that he does not want ‘creativity’ in the country to be killed while pretending that he knew nothing about the issue involved—when nearly everyone who reads newspapers knows it.

It was disappointing that the current darling of the Sangh Parivar from Bollywood, Rishi Kapoor, did not Tweet his wisdom on the film. He could ask the film makers who wanted to retain the full title of the film if Punjab was the property of their father. He would have been better placed to pose that question because he does come from a Punjabi family!

Another miss about the Udata Punjab controversy was the absence of fire power that Anupam Kher could have provided by leading a mob of ‘tolerant’ group to South Block and ending it with a meeting with the prime minister. By not bashing a few ‘intolerant’ chaps from the ‘anti-national’ brigade of JNU he would have convinced the country about his ‘tolerance’. But wait, will it not be a good idea if Kher made a film that counters whatever Udata Punjab depicts? He may not be Punjabi but his wife represents the capital of Punjab in parliament.

- Asian Tribune -

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