NEW DELHI: Acclaimed filmmaker Shyam
Benegal has said "Udta Punjab" does not denigrate Punjab and that it's a
"laudable effort" by the filmmakers to bring to light the state's
vulnerability to drug abuse.
"It's a well-made film. It brings to
attention a very serious problem, that of drug use among young people,
which can, if we are not careful, become a rampant problem. It's a
laudable effort," multiple National Award winning filmmaker Benegal told
IANS over phone from Mumbai.
"But people are misreading the
film," he said. "They are under the impression that it is anti-Punjab. I
don't think the film is anti-Punjab at all."
Benegal, who heads
the government-appointed revamp panel of the Central Board of Film
Certification (CBFC), watched the Abhishek Chaubey directorial on
Wednesday in Mumbai following a row between the movie's makers and the
The censor board has demanded 89 cuts, including
references to Punjab and expletives in the film. Censor chief Pahlaj
Nihalani has denied suggestions he acted under political pressure.
elections are due in Punjab next year. The opposition has made the drug
abuse in the state a major campaign issue, upsetting the ruling Akali
On Wednesday, Nihalani suggested that
co-producer Anurag Kashyap had taken money from the Aam Aadmi Party
(AAP) to make "Udta Punjab", triggering an angry reaction from the film
makers and Bollywood.
Benegal said he was speaking as an individual filmmaker, not as head of the CBFC revamp committee.
"If the question is of the use of dialect and language, there is a great deal of obscenity being used (in the film)," he said.
"But you see, there are certain sections of our population that use obscenity as punctuation in the language.”
Having said that, Benegal asserted that he would not recommend the film for a universal audience.
"It cannot get a 'U' certificate, and I am told the producers never asked for a universal certificate.
only asked for an 'A' certificate. So, in terms of age and maturity,
the film is only meant essentially for adults and not people younger
than properly grown adults," said the 81-year-old.
Benegal said that in essence, "Udta Punjab" makes an important point.
is vulnerable. Unfortunately, it happens to be extremely vulnerable
because it's a border state and it's a doorway to India. So, drugs that
come in from outside, have to pass through Punjab...
career as a filmmaker, Benegal has fearlessly touched upon
socio-political issues and handled the sensitive subjects deftly in
movies like "Ankur", on class differences; "Nishant", on the power of
the rural elite and the sexual exploitation of women; and "Mandi", a
satire on a tiff between prostitutes in a brothel and politicians.
As compared to his times, has it become tougher for filmmakers to bring socio-political issues to the big screen?
when you are critical of an establishment at any given time, there
would always be a response. You can't expect it not to be there. If I am
critical of you, you will definitely react, no? So, same thing. That
has nothing to do with what happened 30 years ago or what has happened
today. It has always remained that way," Benegal said.
difference, he pointed out, is that the matters snowball into
controversies because now "media tends to exaggerate" the issue and
since there are multiple channels of communication, news and views
become more magnified than before.
(Radhika Bhirani can be contacted at email@example.com)
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