As the censorship row over ‘Udta Punjab’ intensifies, Punjabi artistes admit that the state is reeling under drug menace, how it is affecting the youth and why the issue needs to be addressed.
I completely support ‘Udta Punjab’. A film can never defame a state. I am proud to be a Punjabi. I am not saying the drug menace prevails only in that state but it does exist there. Removing Punjab from the title is ridiculous as everyone knows about this issue. Whenever I go back home, I hear how substance abuse is killing the youth. I have even heard that grooms don’t reach on time for their own wedding in Punjab because of drug abuse. Let’s face it, there is a problem and it needs to be addressed. In fact, the film will only help people know the reality and find a way to solve the issue.
At the trailer launch of ‘Udta Punjab’, the actor-singer said, “I wish this film was made in the Punjabi film industry. Director Abhishek Chaubey and his team did a lot of recce. They have worked hard on the subject. I’m glad that this serious issue is being told to the audience through a bigger platform as it will reach a wider audience.”
Punjab is definitely facing a huge drug abuse issue. When I go there and see so many young lads wasting their lives, I tell them that they shouldn’t succumb to it. They deny it as they fear they would be caught by the cops but one look at their physique and you can see how it has affected them. I’ve also tried talking to some parents and urged them to stop their sons from falling into this trap. The guys are unwilling to undergo rehab or treatment as they feel they are leading high-flying lives. I think a film like ‘Udta Punjab’ should be encouraged to create awareness about this issue. The Censor Board should support the film’s cause and the government should find ways to resolve the drug problem. While I can’t comment on the cuts, I think it’s a stupid argument to suggest changing the film’s title and removing any references to Punjab. After all, the film is based in that state and has been shot there, even the characters talk in Punjabi.
Every time I speak to my cousins in Punjab, they tell me the addiction levels amongst the youth over there are high. Obviously, people won’t like if their flawed side is highlighted so blatantly on screen. Mere andar ka Punjabi gets affected when I think about substance abuse in the region. I hope the intention of the film’s team is to make a difference and not just make another movie that wants to sensationalise an issue.
I am ashamed that films with real content that mirror the society’s evils are shunned like this. It’s sad that this treatment is being meted out to the film and its makers due to political pressure, upcoming elections and people’s vested interests. Why should political motives be instrumental in the creative decision of film-making? Punjab is going through a rough phase and if a film wants to bring the issue to the forefront, why should there be an uproar? ‘Udta Punjab’ is exposing a serious matter that is of national and international importance. It is informational, educational and an eye-opener of sorts. Turning a blind eye is never a solution.
You can’t brush facts under the carpet and ignore reality. Punjab is suffering today due to a significant rise in crime and substance abuse, which is at an all-time high among the youth. What will you do by salvaging the state’s image if you can’t save its youth? Instead of hiding the problem, we should solve it. In a day and age, when our Prime Minister is addressing issues pertaining to hygiene on an international platform, why are we cagey about acknowledging this problem that is staring right at our face. I don’t know if the film is a mirror reflection of the problems in the state, but I am certain that sidelining or neglecting an issue is not the solution.
Rakul Preet Singh
Even though I want to be politically correct, I believe we should treat a film as a film. I’m a Punjabi and those who stay in Punjab will continue staying there and loving the state as they did before the film’s release. And if at all there’s any issue like how it’s being shown in the film, we should take it in a positive stride and create awareness. Why should we maintain double standards? Movies depicting terrorism in Mumbai have been made. Does that mean people have stopped living in the city?
I think that if something is not right in a particular state, city or country, we shouldn’t hide it. Instead, we should talk about it and spread awareness. Maybe, the state has the highest number of such cases, but it is not that this problem exists only in Punjab. Talking about this issue will not take away from all the good that Punjab has to offer and definitely will not defame it. What will really defame it is the incapability of the top-level people to handle the issue.
Drug abuse does exist in Punjab but the government cannot control it. If a film like ‘Udta Punjab’ is trying to showcase this issue, it is not to get mileage, but to let people know what is happening. I am a proud Punjabi myself and for those who say that they are the face of the state, I would like to ask them that if they have the best in mind, then why are Punjabis suffering so much? We used to have robust Punjabis like Dharmendra and Dara Singh but we can’t see such youngsters from the state these days as they are turning towards drugs.
The controversy is unnecessary. As an actor, I believe in creativity and freedom of expression. When it comes to ‘Udta Punjab’, I will comment as an individual and not as a Punjabi. I have not seen the film yet but if the content helps to create awareness about the drugs issue and is presented in the right spirit, then it should be allowed. Cinema has a huge influence on the society and is instrumental in making changes. So if it is helping the cause, it should be seen in the right spirit.
Cinema depicts the face of the society and art has the freedom to show what it wants. Let the viewers take the final call on ‘Udta Punjab’ when they see it. It should be our own perception and not that of people sitting in a room and saying what is good for us and what is not.