‘Udta Punjab’ row: Film not made to malign state, says HC

The Bombay High Court on Thursday observed that upcoming movie ‘Udta Punjab’ “wants to save people” from drugs and “has not been made with a view to malign the state or its people”. The Court sought an explanation from the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) over its insistence on deleting the Punjab signboard in the film.

A Division Bench of Justices S.C. Dharmadhikari and Shalini Phansalkar Joshi heard senior counsel Ravi Kadam appearing for the producers of the film who filed the plea against the cuts suggested by the CBFC. Advocate Advait Sethna argued the case on behalf of CBFC.

Advocate Kadam said that the cuts suggested by the body were central to the film. He argued that the modern audience was mature and would not get depraved by references to drugs in the film. On the other hand, CBFC counsel Sethna defended the cuts/changes saying that they were suggested by the board’s revising committee on the grounds of sovereignty, integrity and morality laid down by the law.   

"Why this hue and cry in this matter? It is obnoxious. We should avoid this as responsible people. Present generation wants something more mature. But you say 'no'," the Court observed and asked asked how the integrity of the state would be affected by just pulling down one signboard.

“Displaying a signboard, which is a dividing line between two countries, will affect the sovereignty of the country is what you are saying. How do you see this statutory base? It is not as if such a depiction is affecting sovereignty badly,” said Justice Dharmadhikari, adding that the bench will not support removing the signboard.

“It is our prerogative that the movie never praises drugs. It is still going to say that drugs are bad. The movie wants to save people from this and has not been made with a view to malign the state or its people,” Justice Dharmadhikari said, assuring that the Court would ensure drugs are denounced.

Saying that other states have been shown in a worse light, the Court mentioned that in films like ‘Go, Goa, Gone’ and ‘Bombay to Goa’, people are shown going to Goa for added flavour and the state is shown as a place for women and wine. But advocate Sethna argued that they did not want Punjab to be depicted as a state known for drugs.

"But is Punjab only known for drugs?" the judges wondered.

The Court had adjourned the matter to Friday for further hearing.