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Bollywood stands up to censorship

MUMBAI:In a rare show of unity, Bollywood came together to fight for Udta Punjab and take a stand for freedom of expression and creativity.

Show of unity: Filmmaker Mahesh Bhatt with Udta Punjab ’s actors Shahid Kapoor and Alia Bhatt at a press conference in Mumbai on Wednesday.

While Phantom Films, producers of Udta Punjab, moved court on Wednesday to get a copy of the letter issued by the Central Board of Film Certification’s revising committee, detailing the cuts (without which they can’t go to the appellate tribunal or court), a number of A listers from the Hindi film industry came together to voice their protest against the functioning of the CBFC and its chief Pahlaj Nihalani.

13 suggestions

A Division Bench of Justice S.C. Dharmadhikari and Justice Shalini Phansalkar Joshi heard Phantom Films and Vikas Bahl, one of the producers of the film which is scheduled for release on June 17. It was only after this that the revising committee shared its letter with the producers. After receiving the letter that made 13 suggestions, senior counsel Ravi Kadam, appearing for the petitioners, sought permission to amend the petition. The matter has been adjourned for Thursday.

The letter starts with, “Reasons for grant of “A with Cuts” Certificate to the film subject to the following cuts”. It says, “The theme, presentation, language and visuals of the film are not suitable for non-adults.” The letter then elaborates suggestions to delete words and visuals from the film, one of them being ‘Delete signboard of Punjab in the beginning.’

By the end of the rather eventful day, Shyam Benegal, head of the government-appointed panel to revise censorship guidelines, had declared that Udta Punjab was a “very well made” film; Karan Johar had written an impassioned column against censorship on ndtv.com; and Aamir Khan and Amitabh Bachchan had spoken in support of team Udta Punjab.

Filmmakers Imtiaz Ali, Zoya Akhtar, Anand L. Rai, Sudhir Mishra, Reema Kagti, Mahesh and Mukesh Bhatt, besides the stars of the film Shahid Kapur and Alia Bhatt and the producers Anurag Kashyap, Ekta Kapoor, Vikas Bahl and Mashi Mantena, spoke at a press conference, arranged in association with IFTDA to protest against the “massive” censorship of Udta Punjab, Abhishek Chaubey’s drug-themed drama.

Shahid Kapur said: “If the youth don’t have the right to know that drugs are bad, it is a clear assault on freedom of expression.”

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