Udta Punjab Throws Open Pandora’s Box

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-Dev Ankur Wadhawan

That drug menace has been a festering problem in large parts of its rural areas has been the worst kept secret of Punjab. As per a report, more than 70 percent of Punjab’s youth, between the age of 16 and 35 years of age, have been addicted to drugs. So much so that in the run – up to the last elections, a large quantity of drugs, which were allegedly to be distributed amongst the youth, was seized.

Udta Punjab, a product of Phantom Films, directed by Abhishek Chaubey, which takes a view of the dark underbelly existing in Punjab, finds itself stuck in a quagmire. There is no dearth of those who see political repercussions attached to it. With elections to take place soon, the movie has hit rough weather and has become a political hot potato in the state.

The movie had been earlier slated to release on the 17th June. But with more than 80 cuts proposed in the movie by the revision committee of the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC), its timely release can be in a limbo. The Board has even asked for the word ‘Punjab’ to be removed from the movie’s name and all references to the state be deleted from the movie. Its a move that has attracted sharp criticism online. Anurag Kashyap, one of the Producers of the movie, has hit out at the Board for its alleged stifling of freedom of expression.

Anurag Kashyap ‏@anuragkashyap72

I always wondered what it felt like to live in North Korea .. Ab to plane pakadney ki bhi zaroorat nahin..

With elections in Punjab around the corner, Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), the ruling party has been oscillating on a host of issues between aggressive posturing and an ostrich – like approach. It has been blaming others of defaming Punjab and its youth, accusing the Opposition and even the external forces of trying to destabilize Punjab or has been behaving in a manner where it sees no wrong, hears no wrong and does not even want anyone else to show anything wrong with Punjab.

The movie has become a difficult issue for the Akalis to deal with. The party has alleged that the movie tries to defame Punjab by painting its youth in a bad light, by exaggerating the prevailing drugs’ menace.

For the party, already grappling with anti – incumbency, the movie may not come at a worse time. The prevailing unemployment in the state, sections of youth not seeing bright prospects in agricultural sector, poor state of infrastructure combined with the prevalent drug menace can be the albatross around its neck in the election season.

SAD has taken on the movie and claimed that its an attempt to defame Punjab. However, the movie has clearly drawn a lot of curiosity so far and the entire hullabaloo can benefit its box – office numbers as well. Its around 3 – minute trailer, has had more than 1 crore 22 lakh views on YouTube. It has Shahid Kapoor in the lead role, playing the role of Tommy, a rockstar who indulges in drug abuse.

With elections fast approaching, the SAD  – BJP combine can be involved in a three – way contest. Chief Minister Prakash Singh Badal and his son and Deputy Chief Minister, Sukhbir Singh Badal, have been accused of being indifferent to the people’s plight and not doing enough to control the drug menace. A slanging match has been on in the state between the Congress and  the Akalis. Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) has also entered the fray accusing the Akalis of turning a willful blind eye to the problem of drugs’ abuse in the state.

‘Nasha’, a song by AAP’s Kumar Vishwas, on the drug abuse menace in Punjab, has had more than 11 lakh 50 thousand views online so far. It takes on the Badals for the state of affairs prevailing in Punjab.  The song with the lyrics, ‘Oye Chhad De Pudiya Jatta,Teri Gudiya Kare Pukar’ is being seen as asking the youth to give up drug abuse.

It will be truly a sad scenario if the movie Udta Punjab does not convey the message it ideally should by getting lost in the CBFC’s diktats and the political slugfest.

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