For the Udta Punjab team, the battle to release their film has been fought on many fronts.
First, there was the political brouhaha over it, when members of the Shiromani Akali Dal, the ruling party in Punjab took exception to the film, stating that it painted the government in a bad light — that too, in the run-up to elections. Other political parties like AAP and Cngress were quick to jump into the fray, using the film's premise — the reportedly widespread abuse of drugs in Punjab — to launch their own campaigns.
No sooner had that controversy petered out, that the filmmakers found themselves faced with another fight — this time with the Central Board of Film Certification and its chief Pahlaj Nihalani.
A mammoth list of cuts was presented to the Udta Punjab makers, which was finally whittled down to about 13. The ultimatum was simple: Make the cuts, get your 'A' certification. Else, don't release your film.
With mere days to go for their film's release, Phantom Films and Balaji Motion Pictures — Udta Punjab's producers — decided to go to war instead. The Film Certification Appellate Tribunal, which might have offered some recourse, was on leave until 16 June (the film was scheduled to release on 17 June) so Anurag Kashyap and the other producers approached the Bombay High Court.
The Bombay HC directed the CBFC to grant the 'A' certificate to the film and asked for just one cut — a scene where Shahid Kapoor (in his character as a stoned rocker Tommy Singh) was shown urinating on an audience at a concert.
In the meantime, petitions against the film were also heard in the Punjab and Haryana High Court and the Supreme Court, filed by different parties. On Thursday, 16 June, these rulings too went in the Udta Punjab team's favour.
But there was one front on which they took a major hit: The entire print of Udta Punjab, which had been sent to the CBFC for viewing, was leaked online.
Even as the industry rallied around the team, Anurag Kashyap (who had not too long ago advised fans to watch Masaan via torrents online, rather than the heavily censored version that was being screened on the Hotstar app some time after its release) took to facebook to express his point of view.
Anurag asserted that he would never stop anyone from illegally downloading films — as long as it had a fair chance for its box office's opening weekend — and that this time, there were too many vested interests at play to make the Udta Punjab leak a mere coincidence.
This is what he wrote:
Meanwhile, producer Ekta Kapoor also tweeted about the online leak of Udta Punjab: