Already under attack from several quarters over the cuts he ordered in Udta Punjab, censor board chief Pahlaj Nihalani on Wednesday alleged that the AAP had funded the Anurag Kashyap-produced movie and the party shot back saying he had censored the film at the behest of the BJP.
The AAP, which has emerged as a contender for power in Punjab where elections are due in February next year, has been raising the drug menace issue, which is what the movie is about.
BJP leader Rajiv Pratap Rudy trashed the allegation. “I completely reject it that the government has any role or intervened to stop its release. The AAP survives on controversies.” The Information and Broadcasting ministry tried to steer clear of the controversy, saying the censor board was an independent body. Nihalani’s comments did not go down well with Bollywood fraternity either, who stood firmly behind Kashyap. The censor board has suggested “13 changes” and the removal of references to Punjab in the film and its title.
Said Amitabh Bachchan, “I am not aware of the issue, but would like to say that don’t try to kill creativity. Filmmakers can approach tribunal and courts, the only problem is censoring comes near the release of a film.” Aamir Khan came out in support of Udta Punjab, saying the voice of a filmmaker should not be throttled.
Filmmaker Mahesh Bhatt and producer Mukesh Bhatt demanded Nahalani’s removal as CBFC chief. “That is something intolerable, unacceptable to the film fraternity and we want him out. His move is malicious and vicious. He lies, delays the process and will bully the person,” Mukesh, who is president of the Film and Producers Guild of India, told a news conference in Mumbai.
Interestingly, censor board member Ashoke Pandit also slammed Nihalani. “This is not just an insult to Kashyap but to the film industry as a whole,” he said. AAP leader Ashish Khetan said that Nihalani must apologise to Kashyap for levelling the allegation or else he should be sacked. Nihalani, however, rejected allegations that he is under political pressure.