The raging row over Udta Punjab took a dramatic turn on Wednesday when censor board chief Pahlaj Nihalani suggested that Anurag Kashyap may have made the movie after taking money from the AAP, sparking a stinging reaction from Bollywood and AAP leader Arvind Kejriwal.
Leading Bollywood filmmakers along with the Udta Punjab team—co-producers Kashyap and Ekta Kapoor, actors Shahid Kapoor and Alia Bhatt and director Abhishek Chaubey—addressed the media where the Indian Film and Television Directors Association (IFTDA) sought an apology from Nihalani.
Filmmaker Mukesh Bhatt, who is also the President of the Film and Television Producers Guild of India, urged the government to sack Nihalani as the head of the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC).
The Aam Aadmi Party promptly joined the fracas.
Delhi Chief Minister Kejriwal said Nihalani's allegation against Kashyap proved he had acted against Udta Punjab—which deals with the drug menace in the state—at the behest of the BJP.
"Nihalani's statement makes it amply clear he has stopped the film on BJP's instructions." Kejriwal added: "What else could one expect in Modi regime." He added that the truth about Punjab should become public.
Indian Film and Television Directors Association President Ashoke Pandit said: "We condemn the statement (by Nihalani). We demand an apology... This is not just an insult to Kashyap but to the film industry." Pandit is also a member of the censor board which Nihalani heads.
Kashyap, who has made movies like Black Friday and who strongly believes the CBFC should be for certification and not for censorship, hit back.
"I really don't know how to react to this. Of course, I have not taken any money and I feel ashamed that I have to defend myself... I wish someone gives me money as I have many ideas."
Kashyap earlier called Nihalani an "oligarch" who has made the situation in the film industry akin to North Korea.
It all followed Nihalani's remarks to a news channel: "I have heard he (Kashyap) has taken money from AAP... He is a sponsor of AAP."
Asked if he meant that Kashyap had taken money to show Punjab in poor light, Nihalani said: "Yeah, that is what I have heard. That talk is going on in the film industry."
The AAP, which rules Delhi, is a major contender for power in Punjab where assembly elections are due next year.
The censor board has sought 89 cuts in Udta Punjab—deletions which the producers say will virtually kill the movie.
Mukesh Bhatt said: "We have been making films for 40 years but this has not happened before. I appeal to the (Information and Broadcasting) Ministry that Pahlaj should be removed as he doesn't deserve (the post)."
Kashyap has requested the Congress, AAP and other parties to stay out of his battle with the censors. "Please don't colour my fight with any political affiliation because there is none."
Udta Punjab makers said they were trying to release the film as slated on June 17.