As the row over 'Udta Punjab' raged, the Bombay High Court today sought an explanation from the Censor Board over its insistence for deleting Punjab signboard in the drug-themed film which triggered fresh sparring.
The Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC), however, submitted that all the 13 changes including deletion of Punjab in the film title suggested by its Revising Committee were justified and proper.
A bench headed by Justice S C Dharmadhikari was hearing a petition filed by Phantom Films, producer of 'Udta Punjab' which is aggrieved by an order of the Revising Committee that suggested changes in the film before its release on June 17.
Justice Dharmadhikari compared 'Udta Punjab' with another film released earlier titled "Go, Goa, Gone" and said in that movie the state of Goa is shown as a place where people go to socialise in parties and also take banned drugs.
"If Goa can be shown as a place of drug abuse in that film, what is wrong if Punjab is shown in Udta Punjab?" asked the Judge.
The Censor Board lawyer argued that the order of the Revising Committee suggesting 13 changes in the film was not arbitrary and the committee had applied its mind while making these suggestions.
"We are objecting to the reference of Punjab and its people and the language used in the film", the lawyer argued.
Hearing the arguments, the court said that it was not satisfied with the first two suggestions made by the Censor Board about removing references to places in that state such as Chandigarh, Amritsar, Tarantaran, Jashanpura, Moga and Ludhiana.
On other suggestions of Revising Committee, the Censor Board lawyer said he would make submissions tomorrow, following which the court deferred the matter.
However, Ravi Kadam, Counsel for Phantom Films, the production company of Anurag Kashyap, said the impugned order was issued without any application of mind and was arbitrary.
"Punjab is an integral part of the concept and cannot be deleted from the film", he said.
Separately, Kashyap who is the face of the fight against the Censor Board, said he felt blackmailed throughout his battle with the film body over the certification for "Udta Punjab".
Kashyap said in all his previous run-ins with either the board or the government, he never felt he was being silenced, but this particular case was different.
With opposition parties blaming ruling SAD-BJP of using influence to "censor" 'Udta Punjab', Punjab Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal said the government has "nothing to do" with the movie, saying it is a matter between producers and the Censor Board.
Badal's rival and Punjab Congress Chief Amarinder Singh said he has written to producers of 'Udta Punjab', requesting them to provide him uncensored CDs of the film to release it in Amritsar on June 17.
Kashyap got support of BSP supremo Mayawati who said there was "nothing wrong" with 'Udta Punjab' and that the party supported it.
After Ashoke Pandit, another Censor Board member Chandramukh Sharma come out against the functioning of its chief Pankaj Nihalani, saying he would request him to go to the government and ask for changing the name of CBFC to "PRO of government".
At the AICC briefing, party spokesman Raj Babbar took a dig at Censor Board chairman Pahlaj Nihalni for his comments that he was "chamcha" of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
"It seems that the Modi government is a government of sycophants," Babbar said.
He said party vice president Rahul Gandhi had raised the drug issue in Punjab two years before the row over release of 'Udta Punjab'.