NEW DELHI: Lashing out at Censor Board chief Pahlaj Nihalani for his stand on the ‘Udta Punjab’ controversy, the Congress on Wednesday accused him of unnecessarily censoring not only films, but democracy, creativity and freedom of expression as well.
“Nihalani has become the censor chief of democracy, freedom of expression and creativity. First FTII chief Gajendra Chauhan, then Hyderabad central university vice chancellor Appa Rao and now Nihalani, whose principal claim to fame is that he made a movie on Modi ji in the run up to the 2014 elections,” Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewala told ANI.
Further accusing Nihalani of being a ‘crony head’ of the Board, who is curbing the right of an artist or a film maker to express themselves about the social position prevailing in a part of the country, the Congress leader added that ‘Udta Punjab’ reflects a problem that prevails in Punjab of youth being involved in intoxication and drugs.
“Important issue today is to join our heads and fight this menace. Instead of brushing it aside and curbing their freedom, the issue is to acknowledge it and to fight it together,” he added.
Earlier today, asserting that the NDA regime and the Parkash Singh Badal government would face maximum loss if the ‘reality’ in Punjab came to light, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) said that the Prime Minister was using the Censor Board chief as a pawn and was attacking an ‘innocent’ film instead of going after the real problem.
“Nihalani has made it clear that he is not behind the controversy. It is the Modi and the Badal governments and that he is simply a pawn in all this. Harsimrat Kaur, the sister of Majithia, is in Modi ji’s Cabinet and Majithia, whose name has come up in several drug scams, is in Badal’s Cabinet. So, you can see that they are all in the same boat here. Even Jaitley ji has defended Majithia,” AAP leader Ashish Khetan told ANI.
Nihalani earlier alleged that he had heard that co-producer Anurag Kashyap had taken money from the AAP to show Punjab in a bad light through the film and said this was the talk in the industry.
Defending the decision to make a whopping 89 cuts from ‘Udta Punjab’, Nihalani asserted that he had made the cuts keeping the law and order situation of the state in mind and accused co-producer Anurag Kashyap of trying to take mileage from the entire controversy to promote this film.
With Punjab due for assembly elections in January next year, the controversy has assumed political overtones.
“There is absolutely no truth in his allegations and he (Kashyap) is lying to the media. Our job is to give a certificate to the movie, which we have and we have passed the movie. They should come and take the certificate from us along with cuts. The CBFC takes its individual decisions and the panel members then decide if the movie should be passed or not. We have taken a unanimous call and the picture has been cleared, but there are certain cuts that have been made,” Nihalani told the media.
He also accused Kashyap of trying to garner attention for his flick, which ‘no one had heard before’ until now, saying that he was trying to get mileage out of the entire furore.
Earlier, Kashyap accused Nihalani of behaving like a "dictator", adding that he had no political pressure to bar the film.
"Pahlaj Nihalani is behaving like a dictator and it almost feels like you are living in dictatorship, where everybody is telling you what to do and you don't have any right," he told ANI.
Several Bollywood celebrities like Arjun Kapoor, Vikram Bhatt, Karan Johar and Farhan Akhtar among others have extended their support to ‘Udta Punjab.’
Co-produced by Phantom Films and Balaji Motion Pictures, 'Udta Punjab,' a highly talked about movie that is being keenly anticipated by a large section of youth, also stars Alia Bhatt, Kareena Kapoor Khan and Punjabi singer-actor Diljit Dosanjh.
The movie slated to release on June 17 is likely to get delayed.