A man, who believed the word ‘intercourse’ was not suitable for a film’s trailer and an on-screen kiss beyond a specific duration was not correct, is now a presenter on the sequel of an erotica. Call it an irony or convenience, Pahlaj Nihalani is now backing just the kind of product he opposed to while he chaired the Censor Board of Film Certification until last month.
Nihalani, who began his term as the CBFC’s chairperson in 2015, was sacked from his position a couple of weeks ago. The censor board is now chaired by noted lyricist-screenwriter Prasoon Joshi. While there is a lot of speculation around what Joshi will bring to the table – the industry and the audience are hopeful that the CBFC will finally become liberal and rational in its approach, Nihalani has quietly moved on with his business. The producer, who has backed forgettable films like Haathkadi, Aandhi-Toofan and Paap ki Duniya with two exceptions in hit products, Shola aur Shabnam and Aankhen (1993), is now presenting the sequel to Neha Dhupia-starrer Julie (2004).
The film has been directed by Deepak Shivdasani, who also helmed the first movie that marked Neha’s debut in Bollywood. The poster of Julie 2 that released last month has the lead actor (newcomer Raai Laxmi) showing off her bare back, covered by a white, sheer cloth. While the poster has been aesthetically cut, it should be ‘bold’ and ‘unpleasant’ as far as Nihalani’s standard of decency is concerned. Or did it only matter when he was chairing the CBFC? Nihalani will unveil the film’s trailer tomorrow and to see his name next to an erotic-thriller on the invite is funny to say the least. “The poster of the film makes it obvious that the film is an erotica. It will be bold. Pahlaj Nihalani is not only presenting the film but is also the worldwide distributor for the movie,” a source close to the film told indianexpress.com.
No one can forget the bizarre and regressive decisions that Nihalani took while censoring and finally certifying films. He banned Alankrita Srivastava’s Lipstick Under My Burkha, which explored the struggles women go through to own their sexuality, for being “lady oriented” and “a danger to women”. Much before that, he chopped intimate scenes in the 24th James Bond film, Spectre. The censor board also had a problem with the cuss words in Nawazuddin Siddiqui’s Babumoshai Bandookbaaz.
In every case, Nihalani conveniently blamed the archaic 1952 cinematograph act (which, of course, needs an overhaul), saying that he was only going by the “rule book” but he could never justify his prudish and orthodox self, which decided the “appropriate” length of an on-screen kiss and even dictated the filmmakers on do’s and dont’s of filmmaking- a case in point being his demand from the makers of docu-biopic of Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal to get an NOC from various political parties before clearing the film for release. While one would expect the CBFC chairperson to bring rationality and freedom to the process of certification of films in the country, Nihalani’s ideology pushed the already old-fashioned censor board into a more abysmal state.
In this scenario, his involvement with an erotic-thriller is amusing. Is he trying to prove that his conservative ways were just because of the system he was a part of or did he suddenly have an awakening of sorts, only time will tell. All efforts to reach out to Nihalani failed as first he disconnected the call and later stopped taking them altogether, and is yet to revert to the text message sent to him.