Censor board chief Pahlaj Nihalani today dismissed allegations that he was under any political pressure from the Punjab government over the release of “Udta Punjab.”
The Abhishek Chaubey-directed movie is in the middle of a censorship row and while its makers are battling with the board, political parties have alleged that Mr. Nihalani acted under the direction of the state government.
One of the producers, Anurag Kashyap, has openly slammed the censor board and its chief for allegedly demanding 89 cuts in the film, besides asking them to drop the word ‘Punjab’ from the title and the movie.
Taking a potshot at Mr. Kashyap, Mr. Nihalani claimed he has heard that the filmmaker had taken money from Aam Aadmi Party to show Punjab in bad light.
“I’ve heard Anurag Kashyap has taken money from AAP to show Punjab in bad light,” Mr. Nihalani claimed.
Meanwhile AAP's Ashish Ketan said that freedom of expression should not be curbed and refuted Mr. Nihalani's claims. "The Modi government should not play dirty politics with 'Udta Punjab'," he said.
When asked about Kashyap’s remarks that he acts like a dictator, he said, “I can’t comment on someone’s personal opinion. It is their own choice. People are fighting over freedom of speech and expression. It’s their responsibility. But a film goes to public exhibition and we act according to the rules made by the government.’”
When asked whether it was true that he had told the makers to drop ‘Punjab’ from the title, Mr. Nihalani said, “When they have put a disclaimer that the film has fictitious characters but the whole movie is on Punjab and they have taken names from Punjab... Then we have a reason and as per the guidelines we can cut. That’s why we have cut.”
The makers had also alleged that Mr. Nihalani purposely refused to hand them the letter, which mentioned the cuts. Mr. Nihalani, however, said that the producers themselves did not collect the letter until today and instead went to media persons making the matter public.
“We met with the producers on Monday and told them about the cuts. They said, ‘If we get cuts, will you give us the certificate?’ I said, ‘Of course yes’ But they did not turn up to collect the letter. They directly went to media. Today they came to collect the letter.” The producers have now moved to the Bombay high court.
It is not for the first time that Mr. Nihalani has locked horns with filmmakers over censorship issues. He has been at the centre of controversy since his appointment at the beginning of the last year.
He was slammed for shortening the length of a kiss scene is James Bond movie “Spectre”, making cuts Anushka Sharma’s “NH10”, “Aligarh” and other Bollywood and Hollywood movies.