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Indian film-makers protest censoring of movie on drug abuse


New Delhi –  Indian film-makers and actors on Wednesday in Mumbai, protested on cuts demanded by the censor board in a film on drug abuse.
It said that it was an attempt to muzzle their creativity and right to freedom of expression.
The film, Udta Punjab (Flying Punjab), focuses on the problem of drug abuse in the northern state of Punjab, which borders Pakistan.
It was scheduled for release on June 17, but the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) has demanded 89 cuts, the producers said.
“These include words like Punjab and names of towns and cities,” Anurag Kashyap, an award-winning director and one of the producers, said.
The CBFC also asked for cuts of some abusive language and shots of drug use.
“It’s scary,” said the film’s director, Abhishek Chaubey.
“If we don’t protest, even at great financial risk, we won’t be able to use any names of places, people or make films based on reality,” he said.
One of the Bollywood stars, Shahid Kapoor, who acts in Udta Punjab, said that the country’s youth had the right to know and see what could happen if they fell prey to drugs.
A study conducted by the New Delhi-based All India Institute of Medical Sciences in 2014 estimated the number of opioid drug-dependent people in Punjab to be as high as 300,000.
The Punjab government went on a crackdown since early that year and arrested 17,000 people for drug abuse or trafficking, the Indian Express newspaper reported.
The producers claim the board’s decision had political overtones as Punjab is scheduled to hold state legislature elections in 2017.
The state is currently governed by the Akali Dal party with support from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which also governs at the federal level.
CBFC chief Pahlaj Nihalani said the film portrays the people of the state in a bad light and all the characters were negative.
It was the board’s job to check anything that could hurt the sentiments of a particular community, Nihalani said in an interview with the Economic Times newspaper.
“The board is a certification panel which should certify films as U/A (accompanied by adult) or A, not ask for changes … it’s up to viewers to accept or reject a film,” Kashyap said.
According to the Economic Times, the board also took issue with a dog named Jackie Chan. It wants Chan cut, and for the dog to be called, simply, Jackie. (dpa/NAN)

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