Notwithstanding myriad legal hiccups in the release of upcoming drug-themed crime thriller Udta Punjab, there are various obvious observations veering around the whole controversy. If at one hand, the battle between the makers of Udta Punjab and the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) has united the Bollywood fraternity in a rare event with even those unconnected with the film speaking out against the censorship demanded by the board, on the other, it has put Punjab’s polity in a piquant situation, where one faction wants the movie to be released ‘as it is,’ while the other section of society wants it to be thoroughly censored, fearing that the “objectionable content” will ultimately be a sharp attack on the image of the state, which is otherwise known for its warriors, Sikh gurus and the large hearted people all over the world.
Though none among us has seen the movie as it has not been put on screen so far, Abhishek Chaubey’s directed film, starring Shahid Kapoor, Kareena Kapoor Khan, Alia Bhatt and Diljit Dosanjh, is reportedly themed around substance abuse primarily in Punjab. As has been reported these days, the movie moves around the “rampant drug menace” and its impact on the youth in Punjab, which is undoubtedly a disturbing thing. As the matter has reached the Bombay High Court, the pronouncement of judgment in this regard is expected to be out on Monday.
For it being directly concerned with Punjab, the political parties in opposition here, which were already in the election mode for the assembly polls due early next year, have resolved to exploit the controversy to the fullest. While the Opposition has been beating its drum in saying that the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) was contemplating any ban on the Udta Punjab, the Akalis have clarified that there was no such move on the part of the government. Amid the raging row over the movie, where all are in a cloak and dagger position, a serious thought is required from all quarters while painting Punjab as ‘the land of drug addicts.’ It is not for the first time that public is witnessing a high profile controversy over a Bollywood film prior to its release but the battle between the politicians here is undoubtedly unprecedented.
The Opposition that is “duty bound” to slam the ruling alliance for its “misdeeds” has here gripped the controversy too tight to rip off the state government by projecting the rulers as the “drug promoters.” The statements of the people in Opposition are full of exasperation but to irony, despite being the natives of the same state, people in Congress and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) are not minding the later effects while accusing the state youth being deeply indulged into the menace of drugs. Many among them have gone on terming 70 per cent of Punjabi youth as drug addict.
However, amid the strong accusations, if one asks them, none would admit if his/her ward was a drug addict. Former Chief Minister and Punjab Congress chief Captain Amarinder Singh, who generally doesn’t get involved in petty issues, has this time come out with full force to back the movie, finding it as a major tool to pull up the state government. A former soldier of the country, Amarinder Singh has also announced to distribute uncensored CDs of the film in Majitha area, as he wants the “truth” should come before all. Though the Congress is upbeat over his statement, a section of social thinkers have strong objection over his announcement, fearing that the movie, which the producers claim to be simple reproduction of facts picked from society, could cause bad name to state at global level for the Bollywood now having international reach.
Lashing out at Amarinder for his announcement, the Akalis have termed it a “highly shameful” act of him stating that a senior leader was promoting films that have “vulgar, shameless, indecent and abusive language.” On seeing the AAP also trying to derive political mileage out of the matter, the Akalis have sought Election Commission’s (EC) intervention in the matter, alleging that movie was a campaign mode by the AAP. The SAD spokesman Daljit Singh Cheema recently asked the AAP convener and Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal to accept his party’s “role” in the making of ‘Udta Punjab’ as his “own tweets to welcome the film’s co-producer, Sameer Nair, were available on social websites, which made Cheema to further accuse that the truth was exposed that the producer is an ‘active member’ of the AAP.”
There is no doubt that Punjab is suffering from the problem of drugs as it was established when the state had launched rehabilitation programme at a mass level last year but at the same time it is also unjustified to paint the state as “heaven of drugs” for it making the outsiders look at Punjabis with an eye of suspicion. Moreover, there is also substantial evidence available with the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) which speaks that other states are also plagued with the same menace and many of them figure above Punjab in a comparative chart. People in Punjab must understand that Bollywood makes movies with a clear intent to get business and generating controversies before the launch has become a trend to gain public attention with zero investment. It may all be business tactics but no gesture should damage the image of the state.
Otherwise, the later effects are sure to haunt each and every one of us, including those who are quite loud in projecting the state as “heaven of drugs”. If not checked in time, the days are not far when outsiders would start avoiding offering jobs to Punjabis, people would start ignoring youth of Punjab for matrimonial purposes and premier education institutions would also be looking for medical certificate attached with the character certificate before giving admission to Punjabi youth. Let’s understand our responsibilities towards the state, join hands to eradicate the menace of drugs but without allowing the politicians to bake their breads on our sentiments.
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