Indian court clears release of controversial drug-based film

Udta Punjab, based on extensive drug abuse in India's northern Punjab state, ran into controversy for its expletives-laden dialogues Photograph:( Twitter )

Reuters Chandigarh, India Jun 16, 2016, 02.38 PM (IST)
The film, based on extensive drug abuse in India's northern Punjab state, ran into controversy for its expletives-laden dialogues.

A Punjab-based NGO, Human Rights Awareness Association approached Supreme Court on Wednesday seeking stay on the release of the film claiming that it showed the state in bad light. The apex court had refused to entertain the plea and directed the NGO to approach the Punjab and Haryana High Court.

After hearing the petition a day ahead of the release, the Punjab and Haryana High Court gave a go ahead to the much anticipated film.

"He has given a very clear cut report that there is nothing in the movie which shows Punjab in bad light or which lowers the image of Punjab. He has written that drug menace can happen in any state, it's not just about Punjab. It does not glorify drugs. High court has taken a decision that this film will release tomorrow and the petition has been dismissed," said Sanjay Kaushal, a lawyer representing the 'Udta Punjab' team,.

The Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) had last month grounded the Abhishek Chaubey-directed film and suggested 89 cuts in the movie along with the removal of the word "Punjab" from the title and throughout the film.

The film's makers challenged the censor board's decision in the apex court and a bitter legal battle followed between the two sides.

In a major embarrassment for CBFC head Pahlaj Nihalani, the SC on June 13 struck down all but one of the cuts suggested by the censor board and ordered the film board to issue an A - or adult - certificate for the film's screening immediately.

India has a history of censoring sexually explicit and politically sensitive content, and Bollywood is increasingly finding itself under scrutiny.

In a series of tweets last week, co-producer of the movie, Anurag Kashyap had called Nihalani an "oligarch" and compared India to reclusive North Korea.

Nihalani had said the film defamed Punjab and he challenged its claim that 70 per cent of its population was involved in substance abuse.

The movie stars Bollywood actors Shahid Kapoor, Alia Bhatt and Kareena Kapoor Khan in lead roles.