Film industry stands up in support of Anurag Kashyap in his epic battle against the CBFC

A year and a half ago when Pahlaj Nihalani took over as CBFC Chairperson, filmmakers hailed the decision hoping that their films would be seen in the right perspective, considering that Nihalani was a filmmaker and a person from their own tribe. However before long, there were voices of discord from a majority of filmmakers, with the new CBFC chairperson, acquiring the reputation of a Sanskari babu and dictator, who took filmmakers to task and ordered indiscriminate cuts with his prejudiced point of view. The latest instance of ‘Udta Punjab’, however reached a point where the entire industry decided to act and come together to voice its protest against the mental torture that filmmakers had to undergo in the censorship process. A section of filmmakers who came out in support spoke on the issue.

By Manishaa R

Ashok Pandit :
I am here as a filmmaker and a citizen of this country and not as a CBFC board member. There is an attack on the freedom
of expression of a filmmaker and whatever has happened is certainly not in good taste. This is not the case of Udta Punjab alone; it is the question of creative freedom and the industry at large. Moreover the most deplorable part is the allegation made by Pahlaj Nihalani that Udta Punjab has been funded by political parties and Anurag Kashyap was asked to defame Punjab. This is not an insult to one individual, it is an insult for the entire industry. We condemn this statement and demand an apology from Nihalani.
 
 
 
Anurag Kashyap :
IIt is unfortunate that we have to sit here and justify our integrity. It is as if we need a certificate at every stage to prove our innocence and ascertain the fact that we are not affiliated to any political party. I remember when I made Black Friday, I did the film with all the sincerity and honesty that the subject deserved. However by the time I got the film released, I was so worn out that I lost all my innocence as a filmmaker. It left me confused as to what should and should not be said in a film. I also remember when Pahlaj Nihalani was made CBFC chairman, it gave all of us in the industry a lot of hope. But we had no idea what we were bargaining for. Today we have a CBFC chairperson who is obstinate and believes in doing everything according to his own whims and fancies. The record number of films that have gone to the Tribunal in the last two years is proof enough. Have our films depleted to such an extent that we have to take recourse to the tribunal all the time? This is a battle for freedom of expression. How can one person sitting there decide what is good and bad for the morality of the whole nation? Whether it is a sex- comedy or a film revolving around politics, there are audiences with different sensibilities who will react to them differently and they should be given the right to reject or accept them. Besides, the delaying and the bullying tactics of the CBFC are playing havoc with the finances of filmmakers.
 
 
 
Mukesh Bhatt (President of Film Producers Guild)
I have made more than 72 films in the past 40 years of my career and we have had differences with censors but what is happening today has never happened before. The CBFC is making every possible effort to sabotage the film’s release. This is obvious from the sequence of events starting on 10th May when the makers of Udta Punjab applied for certification. What is astonishing is when the CBFC chose not to communicate about the recommended cuts in writing. This is a manipulative and corrupt game, which is very apparent in the CBFC functioning, with every second producer falling prey to it. I am also appalled as to how the CBFC can give the delayed letter on cuts, a week before on the 8th, knowing well that the release date on 17th and the fact that delivery for the overseas has to be made
a week in advance. The CBFC chairman is also a filmmaker and is well aware of this. I appeal to the Ministry that he should be removed from his post immediately. I say it on behalf of the entire industry.”
 
 
Abhishek Chaubey (Director, Udta Punjab) :
I think the whole atmosphere about getting a film cleared is one of fear and apprehension. A few days back when we were having meetings with the certification board, I was so hassled that I sent a message to Vikas Behl and Madhu Mantena in the middle of the night, suggesting that we should let it go and release the film with the cuts because it was a tough battle ahead. I also had my own fears that there would be people with vested political interests gunning for us, and filing defamation cases, besides financial liabilities. Later I realized that if we withdrew from the battle, it would set a bad precedent and no other filmmaker would dare to make a realistic film about a social issue, or pertaining to a place or people. Both Anurag and Ekta, have taken a great personal and financial risk, not just as producers, but as friends and filmmakers and we have all decided to stand up for what is right.

 
 
 
Mahesh Bhatt (Filmmaker) :
As a filmmaker, I have gone through censorship woes right from my first film, Manzilein Aur Bhi Hain in 1973. The film was refused certification because it tried to subvert the institution of marriage. My film Zakhm which was autobiographical also ran into trouble with the censors when Asha Parekh-ji was the chairperson. I had to fight with the Government of the day and release it at huge costs, after which it went on to win a national award for best film on national integration. Now the year is 2016 and I am sorry to say that India hasn’t turned a new age. Young people are globally connected and they have aspirations to match the mightiest nations of the world but all our talk of global progress is futile if there is no freedom. I am here to stand shoulder to shoulder with Anurag Kashyap and the entire film fraternity. Pahlaj Nihalani until a few years ago fought shoulder to shoulder with us against the laws of censorship. It is tragic that a realistic film made with so much hard work on the menace of drugs is sought to be strangulated. I think every freedom loving individual must stand up and articulate against this practice that is going on in Bollywood. There is no freedom without free thought and we all need to fight this tooth and nail.

 
 
Zoya Akhtar (Director) :
I think this is two-pronged problem. One of them is the certification board which is behaving like a censor, when they should restrict themselves to certifying a film. You can’t certify a film for ‘A’ category and ask for 89 cuts. Are you saying that the adult population of this country is not fit enough to watch the film and see it in the right perspective? The second problem is the constant denial of what is going on in society be it marital rape, racism or anything else. You cannot fix a problem by suppressing it, you need to address it. We have to address the reality that is going on-denying it does not make sense. The sole purpose of an artist is to hold a mirror to society. There are a lot of people that offend me, but I can’t ban them. Udta Punjab has to release the way it is. It is a fight for all of us.
 
 
 
Shahid Kapoor (Actor) :
We live in the age of information and technology and it is a sad truth if
our generation is denied information about something that is the biggest problem in our country. The youth have the right to know that drugs are a menace and what can happen to their lives if they are into it, whether it is the youth of Punjab, Maharashtra or some other place. This film has become the face of a fight which has been prevailing for the past many years and it is very important to support it. People ought to be given the freedom of expression, that’s why we are here in 2016. If we were allowed to express ourselves from the beginning, this day would not have come.
 
 
Rahul Dholakia (Director) :
I think the cinema that we make today is about society and a true reflection of society. We do not fabricate facts. I remember I faced a similar situation when I made Parzania. The CBFC, whatever the modus operandi, should keep an open mind instead of having moralistic judgments. The society should be allowed to decide what it wants to see.
 
 
Ramesh Taurani (Producer) :
 
 
 
I think this issue needs to be looked at closely. When a filmmaker is awarded an ‘A’ certificate, there is no question of also awarding cuts to his film. The people of our country are qualified and discerning enough to know what they want to watch. There should not be a discussion on this.
Imtiaz Ali (Director) :
 
 
 
I haven’t seen the film yet and I am representing myself here but anything that attacks the freedom of expression is frustrating and I don’t think we should tolerate it. The good thing is that we are all here together in this fight to express ourselves. We should all be allowed to say what we want to and treated with dignity for our point of view. As filmmakers we don’t need a stamp of approval from anybody. We certainly don’t need to appease anyone or justify our honesty.
Satish Kaushik (Actor-director) :
 
 
 
I am glad that the entire industry has stood up and come forward for the cause of Udta Punjab to support a rightful cause. I have played a small role in the film and I was absolutely bowled over when I read the script and I had also tweeted about how superb the script was. This film projects the menacing reality of drugs in Punjab which has been existent for a long time now. It is obvious that the CBFC is trying to kill the film and sad that we are going through this.
 
 
 
Sudhir Mishra (Director) :
There is a proverb in English which says, ‘Ask not for whom the bells toll.’ Right now the bells are ringing for all of us, after it rang for director Abhishek Chaubey. It is good that we are all standing together today. The CBFC is a constitutional body appointed by the Government and now it is not even called the Censor Board, it is called the Central Board of Film Certification. The job of its members is to certify but the work being done by them is that of the Censor Board. However it is now akin to a school principal who comes out like a watchdog and is ready to slap anyone who comes in front of him. This is a strange situation. By delaying the process of certification to some films and bringing about losses to filmmakers, they are sending a message not to invest in such films.

 

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