Unequivocally upholding the freedom of creative expression, the Bombay High Court on Monday overruled the CBFC-recommended 13 cuts for Bollywood film Udta Punjab and cleared it for release with one cut and three disclaimers by the filmmakers.

The film’s co-producer, Anurag Kashyap, welcomed the court ruling and said:

Our stand has been vindicated on the issue, and it is a victory for freedom of expression.

A division bench of Justice S.C. Dharmadhikari and Justice Shalini Phansalkar-Joshi also directed the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) to issue an ‘A’ Certificate to the film, which is scheduled for release on Friday. Lawyer Amit Naik for the film producers who had filed the case said:

The court has set aside the 13 cuts demanded by the CBFCs’ Revising Committee and cleared the film for release with one cut — that of the hero shown urinating in public — which we had already agreed to cut earlier.

Shahid Kapoor in Udta Punjab Movie Still

The disclaimers the film has to carry are:

  1. We do not promote the use of drugs
  2. We do not promote the use of cuss words
  3. We are not attacking any particular state

and a reference to Pakistan, which the filmmakers have agreed to comply with.

Naik added that the court has ordered the CBFC to issue an ‘A’ (Adult) Certificate to facilitate the film’s scheduled June 17 release.

With this unprecedented development, Udta Punjab will be released without deleting the cuss words, the name Punjab in its title and names of other cities in the film, certain scenes like a character injecting drugs, lyrics of a song found objectionable, the use of words like MP, MLA, party worker and the like.

Earlier, observing that Udta Punjab did not have anything that questions the country’s sovereignty, the court came down heavily on the CBFC, saying it has no powers to “censor” films under the Cinematograph Act.

Udta Punjab Movie Still

The word “censor” is not there in the board’s name (CBFC) and it should use its powers as per the Constitution and earlier Supreme Court verdicts, the judges said, proving a major embarrassment to the CBFC.

Referring to the CBFC’s order to delete all scenes where expletives are liberally used, the judges further pointed out that the central theme of the film depicts the drug menace prevalent in a place (Punjab) and the worth of a film should be considered in its entirety instead of isolated factors like songs, dialogues, lines, words, etc, so there was no justification for deleting the word “Punjab” and other cities in that state.

It should be left open to the creative person to choose the backdrop, the theme and settings for the film and nobody can dictate to him how to make the film which is the underlying key to creative freedom, they further observed, at one time even urging the CBFC not to behave like a “grandmother” and change with the times.

Besides, the film is a work of fiction, it is made for mature, adult audiences, nowhere does it glorify the use of drugs, it is not making a political statement – referring to the upcoming Punjab elections, so the freedom of creative expression is absolute and cannot be restricted by dictating to the filmmaker, the court noted.

These days filmmakers are direct, brutal and straightforward — You don’t’ need to treat them harshly just because of this, as it will kill creativity

the judges said.

The court’s stinging observations on the CBFC came during the final hearing of a petition filed by Phantom Films, the producers of Udta Punjab, for various grievances against the CBFC.

Udta Punjab Movie Still

Co-produced by Kashyap and directed by Abhishek Chaubey, Udta Punjab stars Shahid Kapoor, Alia Bhatt, Kareena Kapoor Khan and Diljit Dosanjh.

Among other things, Kashyap accused CBFC chairman Pahlaj Nihalani of bullying and deliberately not certifying the film slated for release on June 17.

While the CBFC at one point demanded 89 cuts in the film, its Revising Committee brought down the number to 13 on June 6 — which has now been struck down by the court — paving the way for its release on Friday with one cut and three disclaimers.

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