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Pahlaj Nihalani, the chief of Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC), finally got off the throne on Friday. The man who got on the nerves of the entire film industry in his two-year tenure left many filmmakers and actors disappointed. While Mukesh Bhatt had once said that Pahlaj Nihalani can “only do harm to the industry’, Aligarh director Hansal Mehta preferred selling underwear on the streets than use Nihalani for publicity. Swara Bhaskar too, in an open letter, asked the former chief to stop policing and not to sanitise art. Not only the film fraternity but also a member of CBFC, Ashoke Pandit, once called him an ‘anarchist’. Ever since he took office in January 2015, Nihalani has been the centre of numerous controversies.
Here are some of the instances when Pahlaj Nihalani invited the flak of the industry and his colleagues over the issues related to censorship:
1. Just after a few days of taking charge as the chairperson of CBFC, popularly addressed as Central Board, Pahlaj Nihalani came up with a list of 28 cuss words which could not be used in the movies. From words like, ‘haramzaade’ and ‘Bombay’, it had all the usual suspects and some unusual ones. It angered filmmakers in Bollywood. They called it absurd, regressive and against creative freedom.
2. In February 2015, Nihalani courted another controversy as he targeted former board chief Sharmila Tagore for clearing Vishal Bhardwaj’s Omkara without any cuts because her son Saif Ali Khan played a pivotal role in the movie. “Omkara was her son Saif Ali Khan’s film. The board cleared it on her pressure which set the trend and release of films like Gangs of Wasseypur happened,” said Nihalani in an interview then.
3. In March 2015, Nihalani made headlines for not allowing the release of Raj Amit Kumar’s Unfreedom, a film based on homosexual relationships. The chief was reportedly irked by the nudity and the lovemaking scenes in the film. He was also of the view that the film apart from stirring enmity between Hindus and Muslims, would “ignite unnatural passions.”
4. In November 2015, he trimmed the long kisses between Spectre’s lead actors Daniel Craig and Monica Bellucci. Many film personalities hit out at Nihalani for his approach in certifying films.
5. Nihalani’s “tribute” to Prime Minister Narendra Modi titled “Mera desh hai mahaan, mera desh hai jawan” which played during the intermission of Salman Khan starrer Prem Ratan Dhan Payo irked many and even the cinema owners as it caused delays in running the shows of the movie.
6. In December 2015, Pahlaj Nihalani had to give an explanation to the Information and Broadcasting ministry for passing the trailer of adult comedies, Mastizaade and Kya Kool Hian Hum 3 despite many vulgar dialogues and acts in them. In his explanation, he said, “We are in a Catch-22 situation. Karo toh gaali, na karo toh gaali. When we were strict with the vulgarity quotient, we were called prudes. Sanskaari became a gaali. And to endorse obscenity was seen worthy of taali. So, we certified some films with scenes and dialogues that we would otherwise have never passed as they went against our guidelines.”
7. When Hansal Mehta’s film Aligarh starring Manoj Bajpayee was given the ‘A’ certificate, many, including the director of the movie could not come to terms with Nihalani’s decision. Defending his decision, he said the topic of homosexuality is not for kids and teenagers to watch.
8. The Nawazuddin Siddiqui and Shweta Tripathi starrer Haraamkhor which revolves around a teacher-student romance was denied certification by CBFC in June 2016. Later the makers of the film approached Film Certification Appellate Tribunal (FCAT) and the film got released with U/A certificate.
9. Pahlaj Nihalani was in the eye of the storm when he sharpened his scissors and suggested 89 cuts in Shahid Kapoor-Alia Bhatt starrer Udta Punjab which dealt with the problem of drug addiction among youth in Punjab. He suggested removing a signboard mentioning Punjab in the movie among other suggestions.
10. Obsessed with the right length of kisses, Nihalani passed Ranveer Singh starrer Befikre trailer which had 12 kisses and gave it a U/A certificate. The much interesting part was his explanation of the same as he said, “The images in Befikre are not about the kisses alone. It’s about a whole lot of things, about love. The trailer shows kissing as a manifestation of love; it’s not there for titillation.”
11. Nihalani wanted the images of goddesses Lakshmi and Kali to be blurred in indie film Angry Indian Goddesses. These two cuts were part of the list of 18 changes that the CBFC “suggested” to the makers. While explaining his stance, Pahlaj Nihalani said the changes were not random. They were made in the context of the film.
12. Once again Pahlaj Nihalani was under the scanner when he suggested most bizarre cuts in Deepika Padukone’s debut Hollywood film, xXx: Return of Xander Cage. From the word ‘baller’ to scenes where women are lying on the bed and are pouring a drink were chopped from the film.
13. Lipstick Under My Burkha was too ‘lady oriented’ for the former chief of CBFC. The film had, he said, “contanious (sic) sexual scenes, abusive words, audio pornography”
14. Nihalani asked the makers of Shah Rukh Khan starrer Jab Harry Met Sejal to get one lakh votes in support of its use of the word ‘intercourse’. And when people supported in favour of the film, he refused to comment on the issue.
These are the not only controversies where Pahlaj Nihalani got stuck, there were more of them.