If irony, hypocrisy and shamelessness could ever die a bad death, it would be at the hands of Pahlaj Nihalani and the remarks made by him today at the trailer launch of “bold, beautiful and blessed” Julie 2 (that is, by the way, the tagline of the erotic-thriller).
After more than two years of being a protector of Indian culture (literally tagging himself as “sanskari”) by banning films after films as he didn’t deem them ‘suitable’ for viewing by the Indian audience, Nihalani was sacked last month from his position as the chairperson of Censor Board of Film Certification (CBFC).
During his tenure, the conservative, orthodox man had problems with the word ‘intercourse’, kissing scenes, cuss words, relevant problems of a state (case in point, Udta Punjab) and everything that even hinted at being too “bold” for his comfort.
Even as filmmakers argued all this while that their movies be given an adult certificate if not suitable for viewing by family audience, Nihalani put a condition that the films still need to have cuts for them to be eligible for an A-certificate too.
And if the makers stood their ground, Nihalani would take the easy way out and deny certificate to the movies all together, stopping their release (examples being Lipstick Under My Burkha and Haraamkhor).
But today, going back to his roots, Nihalani has become a Bollywood distributor, on a film, which is “bold” but perhaps within his comfort zone. He is presenting Julie 2, the sequel to Neha Dhupia-starrer Julie (2004). The trailer of the film which was launched today, shows that it is the story is about a girl, who faces casting couch in the film industry. The trailer has a character saying “Yahan pe bas body chalti hai, garam garam body.” But Nihalani, who wanted the makers of Jab Harry Met Sejal to remove the word ‘intercourse’ from its trailer, seems to be perfectly fine with Julie 2 trailer.
“It is a very clean, adult movie. If I were there (as the chairperson) I would’ve given it no cuts at all. It doesn’t have obscenity or any cuss words. It’s a complete adult, family film,” Nihalani proudly claimed about Julie 2 as the mediapersons shared a laugh.
Conveniently, Nihalani said, now that he is no more the CBFC chairperson, he will give back to “his industry” with honesty.
“This is my business. This is an adult film and I am asking for an ‘A’ certificate only, not for ‘U’ or ‘U/A’… I am sanskari, it’s in our mitti, India is a place where nothing is bigger than sanskar. I was, am and will be this (sanskari),” the producer made another bizarre remark, completely forgetting how many times he rejected the filmmakers’ argument to give their product a U/A and A-certificate.
“The role that government gave me, I did it with full honesty. Now I am back to my industry and I’ll see to it that I give it back to the industry with absolute honesty,” he further said.
Nihalani also asked the media to not judge the film by its trailer, and see the movie to pass a judgment on its quality. That’s another thing that there were umpteen examples to show that Nihalani raised issues with teasers and trailers of a lot of films, calling them “unsuitable for viewing.”
When a journalist asked Nihalani what really attracted him to the film’s script when the trailer looks “lady oriented” (in an apparent dig at Nihalani’s reasoning behind banning Lipstick Under My Burkha), the former censor board chief said, “If I tell you everything here, what will you see in the film? I know why you asked me this. But let me tell you there is no burkha here. The story of Julie 2 is very relatable. You will realise this once you watch it.”
In support for his film, the producer said that it is a story that needs to be seen so that there is a change in the society, again forgetting many filmmakers’ used to argue with him that they needed to show some stories even if they make the audience uncomfortable so that the real issues get a platform.
Towards the end of the press conference, Nihalani challenged the media to watch Julie 2 and then decide if he, indeed, has turned into an “a-sanskari”.