Director Anurag Kashyap hit out at co-producer and distributor Eros International on Twitter on Thursday over the decision to re-cut portions of his film Manmarziyaan. The cuts were made to the version that was released on September 14 after Sikh groups complained that some scenes offended their religious sentiments. Three scenes were deleted: two showing the Sikh characters played by Abhishek Bachchan and Taapsee Pannu smoking cigarettes, and a third of them entering a gurudwara dressed as bride and groom while the bride is thinking of her former boyfriend.
Manmarziyaan is set in Amritsar and stars Rumi (Pannu) and Vicky (Vicky Kaushal) as lovers who part after differences. Rumi gets engaged to Robbie (Bachchan), but cannot forget Vicky. After the film’s release, some Sikh groups in North India held protests and filed a complaint with the Jammu district magistrate.
“Congratulations. Here by all problems of Punjab are solved and Sikh youth have been saved,” Kashyap tweeted.
Kashyap posted the mobile number of Kishore Lulla, the chairperson of Eros International, in his original tweet. He edited the post after being contacted by Twitter’s support team.
Manmarziyaan has been produced by Phantom Films, Colour Yellow Productions, which was founded by Tanu Weds Manu director Aanand L Rai, and Eros International. The film has fared poorly at the box office, earning barely Rs 20 crores. There have been unverified reports that cinemas in northern states have been cancelling screenings after the protests.
A Central Board of Film Certification circular that was posted on Twitter and is dated September 18 details the cuts. Aanand L Rai issued a statement late in the evening, taking responsibility for the post-release excisions. “These cuts were made on a call taken by Colour Yellow Team,’ Rai said in his statement. “I feel we need to understand that this controversy happened after the film has released which leaves the producers and studio extremely vulnerable. Further, If the concept of the film itself was smoking, we would’ve taken a stand like we did for Udta Punjab.
“Manmarziyaan is a love story and we believe that these cuts do not compromise with the genre it is. With the limited theatrical shelf life of films these days, we didn’t want the audience waiting to watch this film to suffer and be deprived of a film. My heart goes out to Anurag but In the current situation, we have to be practical.”
Eros International too distanced itself from the censorship. The studio said in a statement, “Colour Yellow is the creative producer on Manmarziyaan. We have the deepest respect for all communities and it is our intention to maintain neutrality and never intentionally hurt or disrespect any religion or community. We have the greatest respect for the law of the land and follow and implement all guidance of the Censor Board which is the supreme authority for film content in the country.”
Lead actress Taapsee Pannu tweeted her displeasure on Thursday over the deletion of the scenes, while Vikramaditya Motwane, a partner at Phantom Films, weighed in too.
Anurag Kashyap had first spoken out about the controversy on Wednesday in a note posted to Twitter.
“This film is not commenting on a community, it talks about individuals and their choices,” he wrote. “Every step of the way, we asked for guidance from Sikh people for the film. When we shot the sequence in Gurudwara, we were told we can’t shoot them getting married as it can’t be faked so we made the actors do only “mattha tekna”.”
Kashyap explained that even the scene in which Robbie smokes a cigarette was shot after consulting members of the Sikh community. “We asked before doing the scene and were told that he has to take the Turban off before he smokes away from his house,” Kashyap wrote. “We were also shown how Robbie should take the turban off with both hands and how he should hand it over and how the cousin should take it. Most of the 150 people in the crowd were Sikhs and we were told that’s how it is.”
Kashyap apologised for hurting sentiments and argued that deleting the scenes would affect the narrative. His reaction on Thursday suggests that he was blindsided in the debate.
“Technology does not allow us to cut a scene and it affects the story telling,” Kashyap said on Wednesday. “So I definitely cannot do that now. To those whose hurt is genuine, I offer a genuine apology, that wasn’t my intention. And for those who are doing it for attention, I am glad you have got the attention.”