Only certify, don’t Censor Board : High Court to CBFC

Bombay High Court pulls up Censor Board for being overly critical

Mumbai : The Bombay High Court has pulled up the Censor Board for being overly critical of the controversial film ‘Udta Punjab’ and asked the board to only ‘certify’ films instead of ‘censoring’ them.  “The word censor is not anywhere in the Act. Your power is to certify films for public exhibition,” the court observed.

Pahlaj Nihalani, the chief of the Central Board of Film Certification, is behind the 89 controversial deletions recommended in the film Udta Punjab, whose producer Anurag Kashyap has taken the board to court.

A division bench of Justice Satyaranjan C Dharmadhikari and Justice Shalini Phansalkar-Joshi were hearing the petition filed by Phantom Films, the co-producers of Udta Punjab who have challenged the numerous cuts suggested by Censor Board’s Revising Committee.

Advait Sethna, the advocate who appeared for Censor Board, put forth the board’s opinion that the producers should delete the scenes wherein references are made to Punjab, Elections and also the expletives and abusive words used in the film. Taking a note of the use of abusive words and expletives in the film and the objection of the Censor Board, the bench said, “Leave it to the people to decide whether a movie is good or bad, since everyone has a choice. Hand over the remote to the people – let them decide what to watch and when to switch off, whether it is television or cinema.”

“They (film producers) should understand that expletives and abusive words won’t make the film work,” the bench added. The bench observed that it is creativity which makes a long lasting impact on minds of the people and not abuses or expletives.

Responding to the bench’s observation, senior counsel Ravi Kadam, who appeared for Phantom Films, told the court that use of abusive words is integral part of the film to demonstrate the influence of drugs and these cannot be deleted. He assured the bench that the producers may insert a disclaimer which may state that ‘neither the actors nor the makers of the film support or encourage use of expletives or abusive words.’

While referring to a scene where Shahid Kapoor (the main character) is seen ‘urinating’ in public, the bench said that it cannot be allowed for public screening. Kadam agreed with the bench and assured the court that this scene (urinating in public), which lasts for a split second, would be deleted from the film.

Leave it to the people to decide whether a movie is good or bad, since everyone has a choice. Hand over the remote to the people – let them decide what to watch and when to switch off, whether it is television or cinema.”

Sethna justified the board’s stand on certain ‘cuts’ saying that the film refers to Punjab’s sitting MP Devendra Singh by name; likewise, in the movie there is a dog named Jacky Chan, which is defamatory. He also referred to scenes wherein party workers in the film are seen peddling drugs to farmers, which he claimed has demeaned the entire ‘election’ process and also showed the state in a bad light.

To the claim of Censor Board that the film ‘glorifies’ drugs consumption, the bench said, “If the film glorifies drugs consumption, why are you (Censor Board) suggesting some deletions, why don’t you pull down the entire movie?” Posting the matter for orders on June 13, the bench held that the film does not seem to glorify the use of drugs. Censor boss Nihalani said he would wait for Monday’s verdict before commenting on the court’s observations, but added, “My job is to look at films which aren’t passed by the examining committee; a panel takes a call on films, not one person.”

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