A day after the Bombay High Court directed the Central Board of Film Certification to grant Udta Punjab an ‘A’ certificate (with one cut and two disclaimers), the film’s team — director Abhishek Chaubey, producers Phanton Films Limited (Anurag Kashyap, Madhu Mantena) and Balaji Morion Pictures (Ekta Kapoor) and actors Shahid Kapoor, Alia Bhatt, Diljit Dosanjh — held a press conference to thank the media for its support during the censorship row.
Most of the questions and comments were directed at Anurag who has been the most vociferous voice in the fight to have the film released. Anurag said Udta Punjab may have won the round, but the battle itself is far from over.
“We need to change the system. But from Arun Jaitley and Rajyavardhan Rathore’s recent statements, we hope that change is coming soon,” Anurag said.
Amid calls for CBFC chief Pahlaj Nihalani’s removal, Anurag said that it wasn’t a solution to the problem of creative censorship.
“We do have a humongous problem with Mr Nihalani, but even if he is removed, who will come in his place? It is the system that needs an overhaul,” he said, adding, “No doubt, the Cinematograph Act of 1952 is stale and needs a relook. But both Gangs of Wasseypur and Dev D were released under those same guidelines. I fought for Black Friday too. But that felt like a fair fight. This (Udta Punjab) didn’t. This time, it was the world that was telling us – your film is banned, there are so many cuts…”
Anurag also admitted that in a fight of this nature, there is a tendency for the issue to get politicised. He said that he deliberately did not let any political party/entity get involved in the matter. “When (the row) started, no one from Balaji or Phantom was talking to the media, because we just wanted to get our film released. But there were all these stories about ‘so many cuts’ etc, and we don’t know where they were coming from. I did get some calls (from some political parties), but I very vehemently and clearly told them to stay out of it,” he said.
Anurag refused to be drawn into a discussion about the quality of Pahlaj Nihalani’s own films as a producer, and the hypocrisy of his targeting “vulgar content” in movies as CBFC chief. “I have watched Shola Aur Shabnam and Aankhein in college and I enjoyed them. I love Govinda. So I won’t sit in judgment. We need to keep our comments to the issue at hand, not the films Nihalani made in the past. In fact, my question would be: unko abhi kya ho gaya hai?” said Anurag, with a laugh.
Director Abhishek Chaubey asserted that the fight for Udta Punjab wasn’t an “us vs them” one: “We were not against anyone; we were for our film.”
Madhu Mantena and Ekta Kapoor also expressed their gratitude for all the support the film had received, and shrugged off suggestions that the clout of the production houses was what helped Udta Punjab pull through. “I think the judiciary in this country works very well, so it wasn’t about the producers,” said Madhu, while Ekta added, “Any fight needs a certain amount of conviction, and some support. We couldn’t have done it without the support of the Film and Television Producers Guild of India, the film fraternity, fans and the media”.
On a final note, Udta Punjab’s lead actor Shahid Kapoor exhorted those present not to make any assumptions about the film without first seeing it. “We have to stop judging a film after seeing a one-minute promo. Watch the film first... The purpose of our film is humane,” he said. “I feel extremely fortunate that we’re sitting here, three days before the film’s release, celebrating this verdict. It means we have freedom of expression. Yes, sometimes we have to fight for it. But we still have that freedom.”