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Indian Court Lets ‘Punjab’ Fly

In a landmark judgement that will have ramifications on how films are certified in India, the Bombay High Court has overturned the censorship decisions of the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) and allowed the film “Udta Punjab” (literally Flying Punjab) to release with only one cut.

The Hindi- and Punjabi- language film, directed by Abhishek Chaubey, and starring Shahid Kapoor, Kareena Kapoor, Alia Bhatt and Diljit Dosanjh, looks at drug addiction among youth in the northern Indian state of Punjab.

The CBFC demanded more than 40 cuts. Production companies Phantom Films and Balaji Motion Pictures then applied to a Revising Committee which increased the number of edits required to more than 80. The committee also required for the removal of all references to Punjab by name. That is when Phantom and Balaji moved the Bombay High Court.

On Friday, the court told the CBFC that their job was to certify films and not censor them. On Saturday, CBFC head Pahlaj Nihalani said that the film had been passed with 13 cuts.

On Sunday, India’s minister for information and broadcasting tweeted: “Govt committed to bringing about a perceptible change for better in CBFC v soon; certification only, not censorship.”

And on Monday, the court said, “We have read the script in its entirety to see if the film encourages drugs. We do not find the film questions sovereignty or integrity of India by the names of cities, reference to state or by a signpost.”

“It is not for anybody to interfere unless and until creative freedom is abused,” the court added.

The only cut the court wants is that of a musician urinating onto a crowd at a concert. Release is now confirmed for June 17.

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