New Delhi: Shahid Kapoor and Alia Bhatt-starrer Udta Punjab has stirred more than its share of controversies even before release. Last week, the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC), commonly known as the censor board, refused to pass the film on account of ‘excessive swearing,’ referring specifically to the expletive-laden dialogues and scenes showing drug consumption in the Abhishek Chaubey directed movie set in the north Indian state. However, even as reports of the film being ‘banned’ do the rounds, trade and industry sources emphasize there is little reason to worry.
“To set the record straight, Udta Punjab has not been banned. The examining committee has deferred the decision to the revising committee and the due process is on," said Aman Gill, chief executive officer (CEO) of Balaji Pvt. Ltd which co-produced the crime-thriller along with Phantom Films.
Moreover, it seems like the makers had already anticipated censor trouble and hence, decided to show the film to the board much in advance, so as to deal with any glitches and stay within schedule.
“I think the producers wanted to be on the safer side by showing the film to the censor board more than 20 days before release," said trade analyst Atul Mohan. Since there is no thumb rule as far as censor viewing is concerned, filmmakers are known to have submitted their projects to the CBFC as much as a month-and-a-half before release as well as ten days before the anticipated Friday.
To be sure, the Udta Punjab producers haven’t booked their movie screens or decided on specific shows and so on yet either. Unlike earlier when theatres were booked way in advance of a film’s release and prints were ceremonially shipped across, most theatres today are digital and it is fairly ordinary for a big-banner film to fix shows in the B and C-centres a day before release. Once the theatre code is shared by the concerned distributor, the movie can be relayed easily.
“The agreements with exhibitors on specific commercial terms may be made 2-3 weeks before release and the revenue share of distributors may be pre-decided, but the exact number of shows are only frozen on the Monday or Tuesday in the week of release," said Kamal Gianchandani, CEO, PVR Pictures. “That depends majorly on how other films have fared over the previous weekend."
Gianchandani added that to presume Udta Punjab will not meet its 17 June release date and will hence suffer losses is “jumping the gun a bit."
The usual route for a filmmaker who disagrees with the recommendations of the examining committee—which is the first leg of the censor screening process—is to go to the revising committee. However, in case of Chaubey’s film which also stars Kareena Kapoor Khan and Punjabi actor Diljit Dosanjh, the makers have decided to skip facing the revising committee and go directly to the Film Certification Appellate Tribunal (FCAT), a body that operates out of New Delhi and hears the appeals filed in respect of a film whose makers are aggrieved by an order of the CBFC.
Trade experts like Mohan, however, add that the Udta Punjab release plan should go as per schedule, depending, of course, on how soon the tribunal watches the film and whether the makers accept their suggestions.
To be sure, the only money riding on the film, as of now, is that spent on production, prints and advertising which trade sources estimate to be around ₹ 20-23 crore. Even if there are further delays, there is little reason to worry considering the pan-India distribution networks of both Balaji Motion Pictures as well as Phantom Films.
“Youngsters were pretty keen on the film right after the unusual trailer came out which already has a million plus hits online," said Mohan. “The censor controversy has only added to the curiosity."