Udta Punjab and politics: What do AAP, SAD and Cong have to do with the film?

Rohini Nair

May 27, 2016 13:33:38 IST

The Shahid Kapoor, Alia Bhatt, Kareena Kapoor and Diljit Dosanjh starrer Udta Punjab has run into trouble with the Central Board of Film Certification.

Apparently, the CBFC has found fault with the expletives used in the film — especially by Shahid’s character, a rockstar named Tommy, and demanded that these be cut before it grants certification.

Kareena Kapoor, Shahid Kapoor and Alia Bhatt in 'Udta Punjab'

Kareena Kapoor, Shahid Kapoor and Alia Bhatt in 'Udta Punjab'

What’s interesting about the censors’ demand is that the producers of Udta Punjab — Phanton Films and Balaji Motion Pictures — are seeking an ‘A’ rating for their film.

But is excessive swearing really the issue?

A whole host of political parties have either tried to capitalise on, or taken offence with, the subject matter of Udta Punjab — the drug problem in the state of Punjab.

Members of the ruling dispensation in Punjab, the Shiromani Akali Dal has been rather vociferous in its opposition to the film. Since Udta Punjab’s trailer released in April, there were reports that Diljit Dosanjh had been criticised for acting in a film that “defames” Punjab.

An Indian Express report also quoted SAD MLA Karan Virsa Singh Valtoha sa saying that the film was an “outcome of a trend to defame Punjab and its youth”. However, the party’s spokesperson Daljit Singh Cheema had clarified that SAD would not be seeking a ban on the film until after it had released, and its content seen. “It will be wrong to comment hypothetically till we do not watch the exact contents. Deputy CM Sukhbir Singh Badal will take a call once the film is released,” Cheema said.

SAD’s opposition to Udta Punjab needs to be seen in a larger context. Rival political parties have also used the drug problem in the state as a means to attack SAD.

A case in point is AAP’s Kumar Vishwas music video called “Ek Nasha” that went viral on social media earlier this month. The song’s lyrics included accusations against the Badal government of (among other things) promoting the drug trade. SAD members were reportedly considering suing Vishwas for defamation at the time.

Vishwas was announced with much fanfare as the face of AAP’s anti-drug campaign in Punjab at the end of April. At the same time, Rahul Gandhi also said that tackling addiction in Punjab will be a priority for the Congress if it comes to power in the state. He made these remarks during a one-day visit to the state in April.

“When Congress party would form the Government in the State, you will see that we will take action against the people responsible for drug abuse. We will eradicate it and you will see the difference in months,” he was quoted as saying.

With the state going in for elections next year, the SAD understandably doesn’t want any more attention on the drug issue — which they believe has been blown out of proportion — whether it is by other political parties or by a film like Udta Punjab.

However, SAD’s spokespersons have also asserted that the film’s troubles with the CBFC have nothing to do with the party.

What next?

The Udta Punjab team has argued that the expletives used in the film are essential to the plot and context. The latest reports also suggest that Anurag Kashyap has approached the I&B Ministry to expedite the certification process for the film.

Previously, Udta Punjab director Abhishek Chaubey had mentioned in an interview with Huffington Post India, just how difficult it was to get funding for the project. According to him, the theme of the film had been a major deterrent for potential producers, as well as the possibility of losing out on revenue streams, should the film get an ‘A’ rating. Some production houses — before Balaji and Phantom stepped into the picture — also felt that the film would run into trouble with the CBFC because of its content.

The current brouhaha only proves that those apprehensions were all too warranted.

Updated Date: May 27, 2016 13:33:38 IST