Wednesday, June 8, 2016

'Udta Punjab' controversy: Amitabh Bachchan, Aamir Khan speak out // Pankaj Butalia: Film censorship continues and spreads in India

NB: The most significant remark here is by Punjab's ruling party: Shiromani Akali Dal, an NDA partner in power in Punjab for nine years, says the film tarnishes the image of the state and its peopleThe government and its allies are concerned about their 'image' .(image means 'front', 'representation' facade', 'mask' or 'guise' - in brief, something other than reality). This is why Modi and Co. banned the BBC documentary on the Nirbhay rape case - it was bad for our 'image'. For the BJP, its not the truth that matters, but what people should be made to believe. They are masters in the art of imagery. ThMinister of State for External Affairs recently dismissed the murder of a human being in Delhi as 'a minor scuffle', and attacked the media for reporting it truthfully. Those with petty-minds have no idea that if reality is tragic it needs to be faced with courage. Doctoring of images will not help - it will only expose you as deceivers and propagandists. The leading lights of our government are least bothered about casteism, communalism, racism, or drug addiction  in our country. They are more bothered that the truths not be known, for that may spoil their government's 'image'. DS

During a promotional event for his forthcoming film, Te3n, when asked about the Udta Punjab conroversy, Bachchan said, “I am not aware of the issue, but would like to say that don’t try to kill creativity.” “I hope we can device a system where there is certification rather than censor. Don’t try and kill creativity. We all must have the freedom to create because we are in this field and all we have is our soul to create,” Bachchan told a TV news channel. He added it is unfortunate that the makers had to move court, which might result in the film’s delay. “When you kill our creativity, you kill our soul. That would be detrimental to progress per say. I am not aware of Udta Punjab issue. But it is unfortunate that there is going to be a delay that they have to fight their way to the high court,” he said….

Mahesh Bhatt said it was a shame that a movie which “holds a mirror” and shames the Indian society about the drug menace “is being strangulated”. “This is not the industry’s problem at all, this is the problem of this country,” he said. “A person who is a roadblock and not a facilitator should be removed. That is something intolerable, unaccepted to film fraternity and we want him out. His move is malicious and vicious. He lies, delays the process and will bully the person,” his brother, Mukesh, who is the president of Film and Producers Guild of India, said.

Filmmaker Zoya Akhtar said burying one’s head in the sand will not make the problems disappear. “You can’t certify something as adult and then give 89 cuts. We are in constant denial of what is going on in the society. It’s like it does not exist. There is no drug problem, there is no marital rape, there is no racism... It’s just ridiculous,” she said

Kashyap has dragged the censor board to the Bombay high court over the controversy surrounding his film. The petition, which will be taken up on Thursday, said the government and the censor board should share the committee’s decision on the “objectionable” scenes and dialogues in the film that is slated for release on June 17. The petition, filed by Phantom Films, a production and distribution company established by Kashyap, has also sought an A certificate for the movie that will allow for adult viewing only but will let the film keep its title. The 43-year-old filmmaker Tuesday took on central board of film certification chief Pahlaj Nihalani, accusing him of operating like an oligarch for ordering the cuts. Kashyap, however, said they were waiting for an “official letter” from the board.


The censor chief, in an exclusive interview to HT, hit back at Kashyap, saying the film was littered with expletives and vilified Punjab. “Mr Kashyap is like a child being denied a toy. He loves to make a noise every time a film directed or produced by him is released. And since he makes a lot of movies, he also makes a lot of noise,” Nihalani said. With Punjab due for state elections, the controversy has assumed political overtones. The Congress and Aam Aadmi Party, which fancies its chances in the northern state, criticised the board. The two parties also accused Punjab’s ruling SAD-BJP alliance of exercising influence to “censor” the movie. The Shiromani Akali Dal, an NDA partner in power in Punjab for nine years, says the film tarnishes the image of the state and its people... 

The world over, films have been critical of the state, of the army or its actions. Witness the innumerable films that have been made in Hollywood criticising the US army for its actions in Vietnam and Iraq. It is scary when a senior filmmaker uses statist terms like “inciting communal violence or showing the army in a bad light”. Films, particularly documentary films on communal violence are about violence that has already been practised by someone. A film is only a messenger. One can understand why the state wants to shoot the messenger but why should a film-maker provide it legitimacy? 

Forty years ago, as a young film enthusiast, I asked Benegal at a seminar whether a filmmaker ought not to be aware of the power of the medium and therefore careful of what and how to depict something. Benegal ticked me off by saying I had allowed the state to get into my head. Ironically it seems that the state now resides permanently in the heads of our leading filmmakers... read more: