Gurnaaz Kaur in Chandigarh
For long, Punjabi films have been singled out for playing safe with romcoms and family dramas. Films like Shooter are but an aberration, and an uncomfortable one at that. However, banning them is certainly not the answer, say filmmakers.
“Today, all kinds of movies are being made in Punjabi — romance, comedy, action and even mystery. We are exploring genres more than ever before. Personally, I like to make films that can make people have a good time, go home motivated. At the same time, if a filmmaker thinks that a Haji Mastan’s or Chhota Rajan’s story should reach the masses, then why not? If a filmmaker is being genuine and not glamorising violence or unlawful activities, he should have the freedom to make the film,” says National Award-winning director Vijay Kumar Arora.
Punjabi film industry, ever since it came back from the dead in the early 2000s, has been thriving on light subjects. “If there are 50 Punjabi films being made in a year, 35 would be romantic comedies or family dramas. Around four of them would be action films, maybe another four on some serious issues and the remaining about Punjabi virsa. Going by these numbers, a gangster movie is anyway a rare phenomenon,” says director Anurag Singh.
He feels banning a film is the prerogative of the CBFC and finds the government-imposed ban “so wrong at so many levels”. “A government cannot dictate what to show and what not. A ban such as this one is a step towards turning democracy into fascism,” he says.
Anurag says the filmmaker and the artistes associated with a film should use self-censorship. “And most honest artistes do have that filter in place,” he says.
While romcoms still make the mare go in Punjabi films, the audience has also appreciated films such as Ardaas, Punjab 1984 and Manje Bistre. Currently working on a film titled Posti, Rana Ranbir’s heart lies in social cinema. Even though the film title tells us it’s on drugs issue, the actor-director says, “There is logic at the core of my film. I’ve made sure that if it entertains, my film also sends out a message. While I personally don’t feel sad about Shooter being banned, I do think that’s the job of the CBFC. The artistes working in the film aren’t gangsters but they will bear the brunt and so will the director and the producer. They should have been sensible about the choice of subject, but the ban would lead to a huge loss.”
He also feels the time is right to raise the chorus for a censor board exclusively for Punjabi cinema. “It’s an industry that pays taxes in crores. Why can’t it have its own censor board? And censorship should apply to songs as well. For the amount of gunda culture, lewd lyrics and bloodshed shown in Punjabi songs, the government should be more worried about them and not the one odd film that may not even get a CBFC certificate.”
Be it a teaser or a poster, a slap or a cuss word, the censor board seeks explanation and demands various cuts and mutes. On top of that, regional cinema has the pressure of being true to the region and depicting the social milieu to the best of its ability. In all this, a ban from the state government does sound like curtailing the little scope of experimentation left to an art form as powerful as cinema?
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