After almost the entire industry came out to support their fight against Censor Board chief Pahlaj Nihalani, regarding cuts made to Udta Punjab, now Shyam Benegal has spoken in its favour.
In an interview with Firstpost, the veteran filmmaker spoke about his views on the film, on censorship and how in India, being a democracy, nobody has the right to force anything on anyone. However, first and foremost, Benegal praised the film.
"It's a very well made film, and it is shot extremely well. Abhishek Chaubey is a good director, and he has made some good films in the past. He handles actors very well," said Benegal, adding, " I am surprised that it has created so much controversy. The film is not denegrating anyone. The problem in Punjab is a serious one."
Benegal then went on to explain how Udta Punjab doesn't show the state in a bad light. "Punjab happens to be a frontier state. It is a doorway to India so a lot of the drug related problems come in via this state. Punjab is particularly vulnerable and they have to be extremely careful. Udta Punjab shows you how young people get destroyed in the process of drug addiction. According to me it's a very important subject for a film to tackle," he said.
So why is there a controversy around the film? Benegal clarifies, "It has created a controversy because a lot of people who have not seen the film assume that it insults the state. The film doesnt hold Punjab responsible for anything. Yes, there may some people in power who are complicit to this, but that doesn't mean all of Punjab is bad. It could have happened anywhere in India or any part of the world. Udta Punjab film has done well by bringing the issue up. It's a serious problem."
When he was questioned about the CBFC's cuts, Benegal said, "I don't wish to make comments on the CBFC regarding this film or any other film. Film making is an artistic exercise and for a film like Udta Punjab, nobody has the right to cut it, except for those who made the film. If a film doesn't fit in constitutionally, sure you can ban it, but you cannot cut out parts of the film."
Watch the interview here: