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Udta Punjab controversy: Is Anurag Kashyap right in calling Pahlaj Nihalani a North Korean dictator?
Anurag Kashyap, the producer of film 'Udta Punjab' is up in arms against the Censor Board chief Pahlaj Nihalani, in connection with the changes suggested by the board in the film. Pahlaj Nihalani-led Censor Board has suggested for around 89 cuts and asked to drop 'Punjab' from the title. The makers have also been told to remove all references of the state of Punjab from the movie. Angry Kashyap compared Nihlani with the dictator of North Korea in his tweet on Tuesday.

The way this controversy is getting murkier with each passing day, one really begins to get confused on whether it's an issue related with 'creative freedom' or a 'political blame game'. To me, it appears more of a political, especially an electoral-politics related issue than a one associated with creative freedom.

Let us first discuss about the existing creative freedom in India. Pahlaj Nihalani is not the first nor will be the last one to be blamed for trying to put a curb on creative freedom. One rightly said, that while censoring, you will be damned if you do it, and also if you don't do it.

Anyways, ever since the BJP government has come into power at the Centre, some people have started branding the CBFC (Censor Board of Film Certification) as a `sanskari board'. This name was given because CBFC had reduced the duration of kissing scenes in the James Bond movie, Spectre in November last year.

Till today, I remain confused on how a James Bond movie's quality and entertainment quotient is dependent upon the duration of kissing scenes. If a long duration kissing scene is very important for a film, then what's wrong with a porn film?

In India people are always very hypocritical while talking about 'creative freedom'. People are okay with nude paintings of Hindu gods and goddesses in the name of creative freedom, but protest the cartoons of the Prophet citing hurting of religious sentiments. Aamir Khan's `Pk' is acceptable to them, where as 'Da Vinci Code' is a strict no-no.

All such opinions related to creative liberty are in fact driven by political considerations as all self-proclaimed intellectuals and thinkers are aligned with a particular party or ideology. There are many movies that either went through huge cuts or got banned before Pahlaj Nihalani took charge of the board. But none ever referred the CBFC as `sanskari'. Thus, I would say that Pahlaj Nihalani is just a victim of anti-Modi intellectuals.

With Punjab Assembly elections due next year, Aam Aadmi Party leaders didn't miss an opportunity to do politics on 'Udta Punjab'. This film deals with the drug menace in Punjab. Thus, AAP is blaming that the present Akali-BJP government wants to curb the freedom of expression and is influencing the Censor Board as the image of their state government will be tarnished on release of the film.

But, when AAP talks about creative freedom, one definitely feels like laughing. A few days ago, Mr Arvind Kejriwal had protested in writing against Santa-Banta jokes, alleging that such jokes showed Punjabis in poor light. There were bans imposed on the film 'Buddha in a Traffic Jam' in JNU, Jadavpur University and IIT Chennai, but AAP leaders maintained stoic silence. That means that they are just doing opportunistic politics and don't have a consistent stand on this creative freedom. Congress had also banned many films without assigning any reasons, thus I don't think that they have the right to say anything on this controversy.

As far as I understand, creative freedom is never absolute, and always comes with a rider that the subject should never hurt anyone's sentiments. Pahlaj Nihalani might be under the scanner now, but I always feel that the Censor Board should take care of the sentiments of a very diverse Indian society.

Is Anurag Kashyap right in comparing Pahlaj Nihalani with the North Korean dictator? Let me explain why Pahlaj Nihalani is not a dictator. CBFC sometimes issues some suggestions for cuts. If the producer and director agree, then there is no problem at all. But if they don't, then they can appeal to a review panel. If they don't get the required verdict from the review board, they can refer the subject to FCAT (Film Certification Appellate Tribunal), which is headed by a retired judge. This is the procedure in place and it clearly proves that Pahlaj Nihalani is not the final authority.

It's not that Anurag Kashyap doesn't know the procedure. But like many Bollywood producers, he too wanted a controversy to promote his film. During such tact-promotions, things sometimes go out of control and politicians also get involved. Anurag is screaming that politicians should steer-off this controversy, but who cares? The end result is that Anurag has unintentionally got himself tagged as anti-BJP or anti-Modi, and he too realises this risk of being tagged is such a way. Saharukh Khan had also realised this risk and the present power of Indian social media, but a little too late perhaps.

It would be better for Anurag Kashyap to go for appeals as the procedure mandates to redressal of his grievances. He should also realise that the concept of creative freedom as such, does not exist in India. It's a highly biased and hypocritical concept in our country. He should free himself from the shackles of this controversy for his business' sake. Let's hope and wish that his film becomes a grand success.

Editorial NOTE: This article is categorized under Opinion Section. The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of In case you have a opposing view, please click here to share the same in the comments section.
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