Shiromani Akali Dal spokesperson Daljit Singh Cheema on Saturday said the ruling party is not against “films, media and creativity”, and was not contemplating a ban on the upcoming movie Udta Punjab, which as it the centre of a censorship controversy. The Akali Dal, he said, “has always supported freedom of expression and freedom of press. It was the first to launch an agitation demanding freedom of press during Emergency in 1975.”
Cheema, who is also Punjab’s education minister, told PTI it was “absolutely untrue” that his party was trying to censor the film. Instead, he turned on the Aam Aadmi Party, which will contest elections in the state next year. He said AAP’s convenor and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal has confirmed that his party has links with the makers of the film, and that the AAP is thus using it to defame the state by showing it as a drug haven.
Earlier on Saturday, it emerged that Kejriwal had tweeted in 2013 that Sameer Nair, CEO of Balaji Telefilms, which is one of the two production houses behind the movie, had joined AAP’s communications wing. However, AAP’s Punjab affairs head Sanjay Singh told Hindustan Times that Nair left the party after the 2014 Parliamentary elections and is no longer associated with them.
The Revising Committee of the Central Board of Film Certification had asked the makers of the film, which explores substance abuse in India, to remove all references to Punjab from the movie except for in the title. It had suggested 89 cuts, including expletives and visuals of drug abuse, among others. However, nothing was given to producers in writing. This prompted Phantom Films, one of the producers of the movie, to move the court on June 8. The film was scheduled for release on June 17.