In deference to the current avatar of censor board chief, Anurag Kashyap should call his latest film Udta Pahlaj.
This will immediately serve two purposes: One, since the censor board chief wants Kashyap to remove the reference to Punjab from his film, it will help him get it passed without further problems. And two, it will become an ode to Pahlaj Nihalani's hypocrisy.
Nihalani's touching concern for the youth of Punjab flies in the face of his own past. At the peak of his career, Nihalani was known for rolling out third-rate, raunchy cinema laced with foreplay masquerading as lyrics and songs that gave the impression the actors were dying to make out. In some of his famous films like Aankhen and Andaaz, the camera rarely strayed from the heaving bust and swaying derriere of the heroine, creating the impression that the women in his cinema were made for just one thing.
Having made a living by giving the young generation of his age such sanskari cinema, Udta Pahlaj has suddenly become conscious of the impact of a film on the rampant drug addiction in Punjab on today's youth.
He has asked the producers of Udta Punjab to remove references to the state not just in the title but also the entire film. Apart from that he has suggested 89 cuts as a pre-condition for the board's certificate.
So, if Nihalani has his way, the film would become just an Udta (Pigeon, Plane, Peacock, take your pick) and turn into a story of some imaginary land, strictly not Punjab, where the characters wear turbans, speak Punjabi and pump some unmentionable stuff into their veins. Maybe, after the cuts, the film will not remain about drugs at all, as if it has just returned from a rehab, and will become an unending montage of ecstatic characters injecting lassi in their blood. Udti Lassi, perhaps!
Nihalani is obviously behaving like an ostrich. Drugs have become an inseparable part of the Punjabi lifestyle. As pointed out by Firstpost, the stereotype of Punjab being a land of gabru (strong and brave) men and vivacious women has been completed replaced by the spectre of amlis—drug addicts—and widows. Today's Punjab is an ugly replica of the world imagined by Danny Boyle in Trainspotting, where the youth are desperate for just one last 'hit.'
A recent study by Dr Ravinder Sandhu of Guru Nanak Dev University put the incidence of dope-related crimes in Punjab at nine times the national average. Between 1999 and 2008, such crimes registered a staggering 245 percent increase. Punjab became the state with the highest number of narcotics-related crimes, surpassing Mizoram which earlier held this dubious distinction.
Another study by the department of Social Security Development of Women and Children found that 67 percent households in Punjab have at least one person addicted to drugs. Yet another study by the Narcotics Bureau discovered that nearly 40 percent men in Punjab are hooked to drugs.
This is the reality that Nihalani wants to hide. It was high time somebody told Nihalani that the first step to solving a problem is acknowledging its presence. Ignore it, hide it or brush it aside and it will surface on a bigger magnitude.
Punjab needs help to deal with the drug menace. For governments—both state and Central—to act fast and decisively, the country needs to first understand the extent of the drug problem in Punjab. Udta Punjab, is one such attempt to jolt the sleeping authorities out of their stupor.
But Nihalani seems to be flying around in some sycophancy-induced frenzy. He has bought the line that his political benefactors and their allies stand to lose if drugs become a major issue in Punjab's upcoming Assembly polls. Since the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal-BJP alliance has failed to curb the menace, seal the border, cut-off supply lines and break the cartel of drug-peddlers, Udta Punjab, the state's ruling elite fears, will name and shame them to their mortification in the polls.
Nihalani doesn't have his feet on the ground. Drugs have already become the defining issue of the state elections. In every corner of the state, people are keen to vote only for those who would check the menace, set up rehab centres and bring Punjab back on its feet.
Udta Punjab or not, the SAD-BJP alliance is set to be grounded. Udta Pahlaj better get his ears to the ground.