The removal of Pahlaj Nihalani as the chief of the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) arrives as a positive sign from the Information and Broadcasting ministry for filmmakers. Nihalani had acquired a reputation as a 'censor' chief for his tendency to judge films conservatively. The ministry is set to appoint lyricist Prasoon Joshi as the head of the CBFC.
Speaking to Cinestaan.com, former CBFC chief and filmmaker Shyam Benegal said that the appointment of Joshi is a positive sign.Advertisement
"Yes, because Prasoon Joshi is a highly rated poet in Hindi. He also has headed probably one of the finest advertising agencies in the country. He understands mass media like few others can because he has been a professional media man. He knows press, television, cinema and, as we all know, he is a very fine poet. And he has been a very successful lyricist for films...Since he has all these qualities, I can see that he will have the sensitivity to be able to deal with the cinema in a very mature and intelligent way," he said.
CBFC member Ashoke Pandit said, "I'm very happy with the decision. This had to come. I thank Smriti Irani for taking the call. We now have a very wise, intelligent, great talent (Prasoon Joshi) of the country who has taken over. The best thing about Joshi is that here is person who most filmmakers can identify with. His sensibilities are right. He has no arrogance. I believe that recommendation by the Shyam Benegal committee will come in with Joshi taking over."
Pandit, who has led a long battle against the direction the CBFC was taking under Nihalani, added, "It was very challenging for me that I had to fight against a person from our own body. The industry will breathe sigh a relief today."
Nihalani had run into major controversy when Abhishek Chaubey, director of Udta Punjab, took the board to court in 2016 in order to acquire certification for his film. Later, Alankrita Shrivastava's Lipstick Under My Burkha was denied certification by the board for being too 'lady oriented'.
However, Pandit believes the last straw was the recent ill treatment of Babumoshai Bandookbaaz producer Kiran Shroff and the board's opposition to Madhur Bhandarkar's Indu Sarkar.
Pandit said, "That did play a part, but I believe, it was the 30-40 cuts that he wanted in Indu Sarkar that was one of the major reasons why he was sacked. There was nothing wrong with that film, There was too much harassment taking place. It had become a monthly affair with films getting cleared by FCAT, and courts cleaing it. It was an insult to CBFC and the government."
Actor Sushant Singh, who was a part of Alankrita Shrivastava's Lipstick Under My Burkha, said, "I think it was about time. A lot of decisions that he took not just with our film, but also with Udta Punjab and others, I think he cames across as one behind times. Hopefully, Prasoon Joshi will do a better job.”
While several filmmakers suggested a complete overhaul of the system, Pandit alleged Nihalani was at the centre of it.
"These five members were appointed by Nihalani. They were his men. He used to instruct them what is to be cut. Nihalani himself watched the film first and then made a list of his own and then passed in on to these members That is a technique which he used," he said.
As of now, lyricist Prasoon Joshi is set to take on the role of CBFC chairman. Pahlaj Nihalani could not be reached for comments.