The filmmakers of Udta Punjab have got one more reason to smile. After almost the entire industry came out to support their fight against Censor Board chief Pahlaj Nihalani, now Shyam Benegal has spoken in its favour. According to Times Now, the veteran director called it a "very well-made film" after watching it on Wednesday.
Benegal's comments are significant as he heads the revamp committee, the team that is incharge of bringing about changes in the way the Central Board of Film Certification functions.
Not only Benegal, but Aamir Khan too has spoken up in support of Udta Punjab. The Dangal actor said on the sidelines of an event, "It's very unfortunate. I'm pained that the film is going through this. As per my knowledge, it is based on drug addiction and delivers a social message. I don't think there is anything that should be cut or audience should be kept away...
"It reflects badly on CBFC. I hope the film gets justice at the Tribunal. The voice of the filmmaker shouldn't be throttled... There should be freedom of speech. Every Indian should have this right."
Earlier, on Wednesday afternoon, a host of filmmakers, producers and actors, including Mukesh and Mahesh Bhatt, Satish Kaushik, Imitiaz Ali, Zoya Akhtar, Anurag Kashyap, Ashoke Pandit, Vikas Bahl, Udta Punjab director Abhishek Chaubey, Ekta Kapoor, Shahid Kapoor, Alia Bhatt, Madhu Manthena, held a press conference in Mumbai to oppose the censorship on Udta Punjab.
The revising committee of the CBFC had earlier suggested several cuts in the film, and suggested that 'Punjab' be dropped from the name. The co-producers of the film, Phantom and Balaji Motion Pictures, have now approached Bombay High Court regarding the matter, still aiming to release the film at its original date, 17 June.
Here are the key takeaways discussed in the press conference:
Mahesh Bhatt commented on the fact that this is not a censorship problem, but freedom of expression has always been an issue in India. Zoya Akhtar said that if a film has been given an 'A' certificate, there can be no further cuts. "You need to allow people to hold a mirror to society; freedom of expression is important," said Akhtar.
Sudhir Mishra applauded the fact that the film community is standing together on the Udta Punjab issue. He said, "The CBFC's job is to certify not to censor." Imtiaz Ali said that the industry doesn't need a stamp of approval from the CBFC.
Anurag Kashyap speaks
"It is unfortunate that we have to justify the integrity and honesty with which we have made Udta Punjab," said Anurag Kashyap, adding, "this has become a regular process of delaying a film for so long that filmmakers are bullied to accept cuts."
He further said that when a new government is formed, all filmmakers hope for support from the I&B ministry, but when situations like this happens, as creative individuals they feel let down. "Everyone has the right to release their film, whether good or bad, who is one man (Nihalani) to decide anything?" asked Kashyap.
On the claims that he has been paid money by AAP for the film, Kashyap said those claims were absolutely untrue and joked that he wished he was paid money so that he could give form to the many ideas he has for films.
"Nihalani claims that he sent us the cuts on Monday. We have legal letter to prove otherwise. We have proof to show that he has been lying through the day," said Kashyap.
Shahid Kapoor & Alia Bhatt support the fight
While Alia chose to support quietly, Shahid Kapoor said, "This is the age of information and technology, and the youth has the right to be informed. Udta Punjab has become the face of a fight that has been going on for years."
Mukesh Bhatt wants Pahlaj Nihalani to be removed
As president of The Film and Television Producers Guild, Bhatt asked that Nihalani should be removed from the CBFC immediately, stating that he is deliberately delaying the process of release, knowing very well what all it entails. "I'm exposing a vicious system that is prevalent in the CBFC today, " said Bhatt, adding, "The move is malicious, vicious. Minimum Rs 60 crore loss. Who's going to pay this?"
Meanwhile, AAP has asked Pahlaj Nihalani to apologise to Anurag Kashyap for insinuating that he was paid money by them.