Co-produced by Anurag Kashyap and directed by Abhishek Chaubey, “Udta Punjab” stars Shahid Kapoor, Alia Bhatt, Kareena Kapoor Khan and Diljit Dosanjh. The film was released on 17th June. The lead actor Shahid Kapoor played the role of Tommy Singh, a Punjabi rock-star engulfed in excessive fame and overuse of drugs. Kareena and Alia played the lead actress roles. The film also features Punjabi star Diljit Dosanjh. The movie portrays an intense, dark and disturbing depiction of the state of Punjab.
The controversy over the movie title had brought the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) and film fraternity locking horns with each other. However, ultimately the Bombay High Court overruled the CBFC recommended 13 cuts for the movie and cleared the film for release with one cut and three disclaimers by the filmmakers. Even the Indian Supreme Court also refused to stay release the film. Its co-producer Anurag Kashyap welcomed the court ruling and said “our stand has been vindicated on the issue”.
A division bench comprising Justice S.C. Dharmadhikari and Justice Shalini Phansalkar-Joshi also directed the CBFC to issue an ‘A’ (Adult) Certificate to the film. While the CBFC at one point demanded 89 cuts in the film, its Revising Committee brought down the number to 13, which was strucked down by the court.
Earlier, observing that the movie did not have anything that questions the country’s sovereignty, the Bombay High Court came down heavily on the CBFC saying it has no powers to 'censor' films. The court made a strong observation about the board and its functioning that the word ‘censor’ is not there in the board’s name and it should use its powers as per the Constitution and earlier Supreme Court verdicts.
The court also observed that 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 such as songs, dialogues, lines, words, etc, so there was no justification for deleting the word “Punjab” and other cities in that state”.
Earlier, the Punjab state politics was severely divided in the row over the censor board's major cuts in the movie. Reportedly Punjab's ruling parties Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD)-BJP alliance had expressed reservations over the portrayal of 'Punjabis' in the film, and there were allegations on the producer Anurag for having affiliation to the opposition political parties such as Congress or Aam Aadmi Party (AAP). CBFC chairman Pahlaj Nihalani, who was at the centre of the controversy, alleged that he had heard that the film was funded by the AAP. It seemed like the Censor Board has eventually succumbed to the political pressure. However, the court decision has put an end to the entire furor and paved the way for a hassle-free release.
To provide a brief review, the movie is certainly not a family entertainer. This is a disturbing film about a very real issue – drug abuse in Punjab. The film has some very strong performances and it is these portrayals that make one cringes at the visceral brutality of the situation. Besides, the film is made for mature, adult audiences, it is a kind of a film with a social message, and strong cinematic performances suggest that the movie is worth all the fuss.