In a move that has been described by the film industry as a “welcome change”, the I&B Ministry on Friday appointed adman and lyricist Prasoon Joshi as chairman of the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC), replacing filmmaker Pahlaj Nihalani.
The moves comes within a month of Smriti Irani taking additional charge of the Ministry, and caps the two-and-half-year tenure of Nihalani, who was embroiled in a series of controversies, and faced charges of cultural policing and endorsing a list of “banned” words in movies.
In a statement, the Ministry said “the Central Government is pleased to appoint Prasoon Joshi as Chairperson of the Central Board of Film Certification in an honorary capacity from 11th August, 2017 for a period of three years or until further orders, whichever is earlier”.
The CBFC has also appointed 12 new members, including actor Vidya Balan, writer Mihir Bhuta, theatre personality Waman Kendre and director Vivek Agnihotri.
“I look forward to this new and exciting phase where our cinema will be allowed to reflect the sensibilities, realities and complexities of the society we are living in today,” said Balan.
Mukesh Bhatt, film producer and president of the Film and Television Producers Guild of India, said, “The appointment of Joshi, a writer par excellence and man who is more evolved as a creative person, as the head of CBFC is a good sign.”
CBFC member Chandraprakash Dwivedi said, “Since Nihalani’s appointment, the members have not been happy. Every guideline was misinterpreted. We had expressed our displeasure over this. Our view was not entertained by the chairman. Freedom of expression was curbed.”
Since Nihalani took charge on January 19, 2015, controversies over censorship cropped up regularly. Vociferous protests following his decision to recommend 89 cuts in ‘Udta Punjab’, besides demanding that the reference to the state be removed. The makers of the film took the matter to Bombay High Court, which cleared it for screening.
Similar protests erupted last month when the CBFC refused to certify Alankrita Shrivastava’s ‘Lipstick Under My Burkha’, saying it was a “lady-oriented” film which contained “audio pornography”.
Hollywood films that drew Nihalani’s ire included ‘50 Shades of Grey’, which was not cleared for release despite over 90 cuts, the James Bond-film Spectre, which had a kissing scene cut, and more recently Charlize Theron-starrer Atomic Blonde, which had a lesbian lovemaking scene chopped.