ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Flight of Common Sense

With the Udta Punjab controversy, the censor board has gone too far.

The Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) might as well be renamed the Central Board of Film Censorship. For what is popularly known as the censor board continues to do precisely that, censor instead of certify. Its propensity to demand irrational cuts in films has grown exponentially over the last year, especially since the appointment of small-time film director Pahlaj Nihalani as its chair, whose principal qualification is his admiration for Narendra Modi and his proximity to the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). This time, though, Nihalani might have gone too far. By demanding unsupportable and excessive cuts in the yet-to-be-released film Udta Punjab, Nihalani has succeeded in bringing together a diverse and competitive film fraternity on one platform. They are now united in demanding that he be sacked.

The censor board’s reaction to Udta Punjab is neither new nor surprising. For decades, the board has overreacted to political films, or those with content that might offend some group or community. Instead of certifying such films for restricted viewing, the board has demanded unreasonable cuts and changes. In some cases, films have been sought to be banned altogether. In the majority of cases, producers ultimately fall in line, as they have to save their investments. In exceptional instances, the board’s rulings have been reversed but only after a protracted battle through reviewing committees and courts. This time too, the director of Udta Punjab, Abhishek Chaubey, was reportedly tempted to give in. He was persuaded not to do so by Anurag Kashyap, the co-producer.

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