Anurag Kashyap has taken on the Censor Board chief Mr Pahlaj Nihalani like no one has ever done before. In a series of tweets on Monday June 6, Kashyap compared Nihalani to North Korea, called him a Dictator after it was asked that ‘Punjab’ will have to go from Abhsihek Chaubey’s Udta Punjab and several more drastic cuts will be inflicted if the film has to meet its release date. In a straight-from-the-heart video interview with Bollywood Hungama’s Content Head Broadband Faridoon Shahryar speaks out in clear lucid terms how he is sorely disappointed with the Information and Broadcasting ministry since nothing is being done to alter the course of Censor woes. He urges the film industry to come together and take their chances.
You tweeted yesterday that ‘there is no film more honest than Udta Punjab and any person or party is actually guilty of promoting drugs’. Many people are wondering that whether Udta Punjab will release on June 17?
It is our job as a Producer to fight for the film. We want to release the film on June 17 otherwise the financial repercussions will be huge, massive, humungous losses that one will suffer. As a producer it is my responsibility that we release the film. We are all together in this fight.
There are rumours that it is being suggested that the film may be called Udta Tommy or just Udta
The thing of removing Punjab is not acceptable to us. It is absolutely not acceptable.
I believe they’ve told you guys to remove city names…
They want us to remove city names, words like MLA, MLCs. All these things have been told in person. He is not putting it on paper. The moment he puts it on paper we have the option to go to the tribunal. We can’t go to the tribunal because he has not put anything on paper.
You compared Mr Pahlaj Nihalani to North Korea when you tweeted, ‘It’s my fight Vs a dictatorial man sitting there operating like an oligarch in his constituency of censor board, that’s my North Korea’. No one has taken such a strong stand against him. We have been hearing all these rumours that Mr Nihalani will be removed but nothing happens.
I don’t understand this apathetic attitude that the Information and Broadcasting ministry has towards the industry. They keep saying things, promising things and then don’t do anything after that. They say we are looking into it, we are becoming progressive, and we have a committee. The committee has submitted the report, but it is not being implemented. We don’t understand why do you have to lead us on the wrong path and say that things are happening. We are waiting and hoping and it is just not happening.
I read a report where according to sources, that according to Mr Shyam Benegal‘s committee’s report, Mr Benegal has recommended that if there’s anything objectionable then it can be banned or that portion can be removed. I doubt if Mr Benegal must have said that.
I don’t think so either. The thing is about certification. What Mr Benegal is putting strongly that the films should be certified and Censors should not have the right to cut the film.
Mr Benegal is watching Udta Punjab on June 8.
Yes he is. I don’t know how much power he has to influence anything. He was supposed to head a committee but the committee doesn’t have the power to take a decision on the film.
A senior journalist Swati Chaturvedi tweeted to me to ask you that whether you think that the silence of the film industry is because of the treatment that has been meted out to Shah Rukh and Aamir Khan.
It could be. A fear psychosis has been created by the trolls. Anyone who puts out anything, is misinterpreted, there’s miscommunication. Even with my tweet they started the miscommunication. That’s why I kept all the trolls out and all the political affiliations out. I said, hello this is my fight versus my Government. But yes industry could be. Fear has been created in people that no one dares speaks up. That is there. The whole country has that fear psychosis right now.
You are saying that you won’t allow any political party to manipulate this crisis to their advantage but the fact is that it has become a big political game. AAP and Congress are supporting because it suits them perfectly.
I am saying everybody is supporting or not supporting with their own agenda. For me I am not a person with an agenda. I want this film to come out. I am an artiste; I want to know my rights. Please explain my rights clearly to me. I want the film to come out. How many people are interested in solving the problem of drugs, I don’t know. For me that anybody who believes that drugs are a problem, they believe in people then this issue needs to be addressed. They will work with that intention and that can only happen by first acknowledging the problem. Anybody protesting that Punjab is being presented in a bad light is all hogwash, it is all bullshit. None of that is true.
Do you find it shocking when it is said that you guys are defaming Punjab. There are people from within Punjab who are supporting you guys. Harbhajan Singh has tweeted, ‘Nt a movie buff bt if #UdtaPunjab showing rightly whats happening in punjab what’s wrong with it then? We want our punjab drug free state.’
There is no intention of defaming a state. There is a problem in that state. The data proves it and the problem needs to be addressed. The problem needs to be addressed. Acknowledge the problem. Don’t kill the messenger. We are the Ostriches, the problem doesn’t exist. Where is that will, that intention to go out and solve the problem. Everyone should come together to solve the problem.
You say everyone should come together but even the industry should come together as well. Why is it that whenever there’s an issue faced by the film industry then only Anurag Kashyap and Mahesh Bhatt speak out and fight other people’s battles as well. Why is it that the industry doesn’t come together? Who are the people supporting you guys?
That is the question that you need to ask them. There are a lot of people who are supporting us. People like Ashok Pandit and Vivek Agnihotri with whom we fight on various issues are supporting us. Kabir Khan is supporting, Bhatt sahib is supporting, various Producers guilds are supporting.
Aamir has spoken about the Censors issue in the past. People like Aamir and Shah Rukh will think many times before speaking up now. Do you find it scary?
Of course. This country has attacked them for having an opinion. It seems like they are Bhaand, they should just entertain. They should not have an opinion. They both have been attacked. Their films have suffered because of that. They constantly do that to put you on the back foot.
It is also being said that Mr Nihalani is having a personal issue with you.
He is making it very apparent. He calls people and says that. I praised him when he passed the trailer of Udta Punjab. I kept him out of the conversation. He has an imaginary problem. His problem is that why am I not going to him to be his slave to solve my problem. I don’t want to. I don’t want to go through the humiliation of sitting there and seeing my film being mutilated while he teaches me Cinema of which he has zero understanding of where it is going now. I don’t want to go through the humiliation that I went through during Bombay Velvet when he completely mutilated my film after a lecture that he sat down and gave me that how he taught filmmaking to David Dhawan, how he taught the industry to edit films. All that bullshit! He just needs an audience that treats him like a King. He has lost his relevance. The only sense of achievement is that haan main kuch kar raha hoon. He made the world’s worst video to praise Mr Modi. That video was more insult to the Prime Minister than anything put together.
The way things are happening with FTII. A new course is being introduced which is weird. Nothing happened with Mr Chauhan. Same with Mr Nihalani. Do you feel stifled that they are the sort of people who are judging you?
It is stifling. Anything begins with a political will and intention. I don’t see the intention where I see the industry really means anything to them. Cinema and industry doesn’t mean anything to them. They have shown an indifference to us. They don’t care. That’s the problem that bothers you more.
There are many people from within the industry who are part of the political establishment. Don’t you think they should speak up?
I hope so. I can only speak on my behalf. I have always fought my own battles. I hope they come. I will be very happy that they come out. But if they don’t doesn’t mean that I will stop fighting.
You guys have had the first screening of Udta Punjab recently and everyone believes that this film is worth fighting for. What extent are you willing to go for it?
Absolutely. It is a film that I will wear as a badge for the rest of my life. We are so proud of this film. This film has such a power that it can make an impact with the problem of drug abuse. That’s how good a film Abhishek Chaubey has made.
Both Shahid and Alia are saying that Udta Punjab is the most challenging film of their career.
It is the most challenging. They have given their heart and soul for the film. This is a film that should come uncut.
Do you feel afraid, considering the sort of time we live in today?
I don’t feel afraid. I don’t want to unnecessarily create a problem. For two years I believed in the system. I have tried to work with the I and B ministry for the cause of cinema, to be make it better, more cleaner, more powerful. At the end of it you find yourself alone. They are not doing anything. They promised. But they don’t do anything. I am up against the wall. I can openly say that I wasted my two years believeing in something, in some one.
You are referring to Mr Arun Jaitley?
I am referring to Mr Jaitley, Mr Rathore, the I &B Ministry. I believed in it for two years hoping for a change. I can confidently say that it is not going to come because there’s no intention.
Finally, do you feel that it is high time the industry comes together?
They have to come together. They have to become one voice. They have to risk things if they really want a difference.