A person like Pahlaj Nihalani, who has always been in controversies ever since he joined the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC), popularly known as the Censor Board, as its chief decision maker, how can he be a blessing in disguise for the film watchdog that routinely exceeds its brief and goes on censoring films on flimsy grounds like we saw in the ‘Udta Punjab’ case?
But when we see the tough responses from the government after the uproar over ‘Udta Punjab’ censorship/certification issue and some tough words for Pahlaj Nihalani, we can sense something positive is about to happen.
And if it happens so, it will be a much needed reform languishing for years.
India’s CBFC has become synonymous with controversies. Sometimes, it finds a children movie like ‘The Jungle Book’ scary enough to give it a U/A-certificate that requires adult supervision. Sometimes, it objects to kissing scenes in James Bond’s latest flick ‘Spectre’. Pahlaj Nihalani was there both the times.
Also, it has been an open secret that how money exchanges hands for a film to get CBFC certificate. The arrest of CBFC CEO Rakesh Kumar from Mumbai in 2014 on bribing charges had created a storm. Many filmmakers then had come out in the open to speak how difficult and money-laced it had become to get a film passed through the Censor Board. The episode showed how corruption had become a way of life in the statutory body that regulates public exhibition of films in India. In fact, corruption in the censor/film certification watchdog has become common to the extent that now no one pays attention to it.
Now if that Censor Board sees some fundamental changes, because of Pahlaj Nihalani’s illogical attitude on Udta Punjab, Mr. Nihalani’s term indeed would be a blessing in disguise for everyone who loves freedom of expression and feels disturbed by the bizarre ways of CBFC.
Information & Broadcasting Minister Arun Jaitley has given ample indications in this direction hinting ‘radical changes’ in the functioning of the film watchdog. His deputy Rajyawardhan Rathore had tweeted, “Certification only, not censorship”.
And to cement Pahlaj Nihalani angle to it, union minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, in a public snub, said prime minister Narendra Modi didn’t need sycophants. The sub came after Pahlaj Nihalani tried to portray himself as a Narendra Modi loyalist by saying that ‘he would feel proud in being labelled a Modi Chamcha (sycophant).
Also, a central government counsel told the Delhi High Court that CBFC would not challenge the Bombay High Court order in the Supreme Court.
The Bombay High Court on June 13 had cleared the film with just one cut against Nihalani’s demands of multiple cuts including omission of references to the names of all places in the film including Punjab. The court firmly backed the film fraternity’s sincerity and its need for freedom of expression in choosing subjects of films.
©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/