Hoping to cut through the controversy over the drug-themed Bollywood film Udta Punjab and ensure its release on June 17, its producers have moved the Bombay High Court. They are seeking a copy of the order passed by the Censor Board's Review Committee on May 3, suggesting cuts in the movie and the removal of references to Punjab.
The producers said they haven't received a copy of the order by the government or the Censor Board, so they could not proceed in the matter. They have appealed for an 'A' certificate and other relief.
The petition has been filed by Phantom Films, a production and distribution company established by filmmaker Anurag Kashyap (co-producer, Udta Punjab).
Filed through the law firm Naik and Co, the petition is slated to come up for hearing before a bench headed by Justice S C Dharmadhikari today.
The makers of Udta Punjab have apparently been asked by the Censor Board's Review Committee to remove all references to Punjab and make 89 cuts in the film.
This morning, Censor Board chief Pahlaj Nihalani, described as an 'oligarch' and 'dictator' by Kashyap, said the 89 cuts imposed on Udta Punjab "have nothing to do with the Punjab elections". He also maintained that he did not act under political pressure.
Kashyap's many allegations against him were baseless, he added.
Nihalani contended the film shows that 70 per cent of the people in Punjab consume drugs and shows the state in a bad light. "Nearly 98 per cent of the movie is in Punjabi and based entirely in Punjab. It is not a Hindi film at all," he said, defending the cuts issued for the film.
Taking a potshot at the Bombay Velvet director, Nihalani said, "I've heard Anurag Kashyap has taken money from AAP to show Punjab in bad light."
When asked whether it was true he had told the makers to drop the word 'Punjab' from the title, Nihalani said, "When they have put a disclaimer that the film has fictitious characters but the whole movie is on Punjab and they have taken names from Punjab... Then we have a reason and as per the guidelines we can cut. That's why we have cut."
The makers of Udta Punjab also alleged Nihalani purposely refused to hand them the letter, which mentioned the cuts.
When asked about the same, Nihalani said, "We met with the producers on Monday (June 6) and told them about the cuts. They said, 'If we get cuts, will you give us the certificate?' I said, 'Of course, yes'. But they did not turn up to collect the letter. They directly went to media. Today, they came to collect the letter."
Kashyap, though, said that they were waiting for an 'official letter' from the board.
The Shahid Kapoor, Alia Bhatt, Kareena Kapoor Khan and Diljit Dosanjh starrer, which highlights how the youth in Punjab have succumbed to drugs, has also unleashed political sparring, prompting Kashyap to ask politicial parties to stay away from the censorship row.
'I request Congress, AAP and other political parties to stay out of my battle. It's my Rights vs the Censorship. I speak only on my behalf,' tweeted the angry filmmaker. 'So please don't colour my fight with any political affiliation because there is none.'
Kashyap has the support of several filmmakers, including Karan Johar, Mahesh Bhatt, Ram Gopal Varma and Mukesh Bhatt.
"It is a dark day for freedom of expression and creativity in the country," Mukesh Bhatt said, calling Nihalani a "stooge" of the government.