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‘Udta Punjab’ is Not Anti-Punjab, Explains Shyam Benegal

Benegal said he was speaking as an individual filmmaker, not as head of the CBFC revamp committee.

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Entertainment
2 min read
Noted filmaker Shyam Benegal. (Photo: <b>The Quint</b>)

On Wednesday, the head of the government-appointed panel of the Central Board of Film Certification’s (CBFC), filmmaker Shyam Benegal, watched the controversial Udta Punjab and gave it his seal of approval, calling it “very well-made”.

Benegal, for whom a special screening of the movie was organised has said Udta Punjab does not denigrate Punjab and that it was a “laudable effort” by the filmmakers to bring to light the state’s vulnerability to drug abuse.

It’s a well-made film. It brings to attention a very serious problem, that of drug use among young people, which can, if we are not careful, become a rampant problem. It’s a laudable effort. But people are misreading the film. They are under the impression that it is anti-Punjab. I don’t think the film is anti-Punjab at all.
Shyam Benegal 
(Gif: <b>The Quint</b>)
(Gif: The Quint)

Punjab goes to polls next year. The opposition has made drug abuse in the state a major campaign issue, upsetting the ruling Akali Dal-BJP coalition.

On Wednesday, Nihalani suggested that co-producer Anurag Kashyap had taken money from the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) to make Udta Punjab, triggering an angry reaction from filmmakers and the industry.

Benegal said he was speaking as an individual filmmaker, not as head of the CBFC revamp committee.

If the question is of the use of dialect and language, there is a great deal of obscenity being used, but you see, there are certain sections of our population that use obscenity as punctuation in language. Having said that It cannot get a ‘U’ certificate, and I am told the producers never asked for a universal certificate. They themselves asked for an ‘A’ certificate. So, in terms of age and maturity, the film is only meant for adults.
Shyam Benegal

Benegal further stressed that in its essence, Udta Punjab makes an important point: that because it is a border state and a doorway to India, drugs coming in from the outside have to pass through Punjab.

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Throughout his career as a filmmaker, Benegal fearlessly touched upon socio-political issues and handled the sensitive subjects deftly in movies like Ankur, on class differences; Nishant, on the power of the rural elite and the sexual exploitation of women; and Mandi, a satire on a tiff between prostitutes in a brothel and politicians.

On being asked whether it has become tougher for filmmakers to bring socio-political issues to the big screen, Benegal had this to say:

When you are critical of an establishment, there will always be a response. If I am critical of you, you will definitely react, no? That has nothing to do with what happened 30 years ago or what has happened today. It has always remained that way. The only difference is that matters snowball into controversies today because the media tends to exaggerate issues, and news and views become more magnified.

Also Read:
Shyam Benegal Calls ‘Udta Punjab’ Well Made, But Stays Mum on Row

(Published in an arrangement with IANS.)

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