Bollywood is coming together in solidarity to take on the Censor Board’s decision demanding 94 cuts in Abhishek Chaubey’s upcoming film Udta Punjab. While much of the debate has raged on the Censor Board’s arbitrariness, the film fraternity is equally to be blamed for letting it get to this stage.
There have been several instances in the past when the Censor Board overstepped its remit, sometimes banning films completely but has the film industry actively addressed them? Why did it take an Udta Punjab for things to come to a head? Several films in the past have faced the same issue that Udta Punjab is now confronted with, but there has been no united or definitive opposition to the Censor board’s decisions.
More than mainstream films, it is alternative cinema that is most often at the receiving end of the Censor Board. However, Kashyap has had several run-ins with the Board in the past that go all the way back to his directorial debut Paanch, which courted trouble with the Board before its eventual release. Black Friday, based on the Mumbai serial blasts, took two years to get released. His 2013 film Ugly also ran into rough weather due to the Board’s opposition to smoking scenes in the film.
Other notable films like Sridhar Rangayan’s Gulabi Aaina, a film on Indian transsexuals was found to be vulgar and offensive by the Board. The film still remains banned in India although it has been screened at numerous festivals all over the world. Firaaq, by Nandita Das had similarly won worldwide acclaim but had to wait for over a year before it released in India.
Even Hollywood films like Quintin Tarantino’s Hateful Eight have faced the Board’s ire as the film was released with cuts that turned out to be a minute and a half. Curiously enough, around the same time, Danish Girl, an Oscar nominated film was released uncut even though it portrayed full frontal nudity while James Bond’s Spectre was asked to edit a long kissing scene between Daniel Craig and Monica Bellucci, which the Censor Board chief compared to “having sex with the door open”. This shows the clear double standards and inconsistency in the Board’s decision making.
The controversy surrounding the release of Udta Punjab has galvanized the film fraternity this time round which looks determined to take the fight to its logical conclusion. With the Bombay High Court set to deliver its verdict on the matter on June 13 and with public pressure mounting on the issue, it remains to be seen if there will be a radical overhaul of the Censor Board’s functioning.