A list of objectionable or obscene words, phrases and expressions released by the Central Board for Film Certification (CBFC), which seeks to ban them from movies, has triggered protests from some board members who said they were not consulted or informed. However, CBFC chairman Pahlaj Nihalani said if some members were unhappy, it was “their problem” .
The list is part of a letter dated February 11 sent by Nihalani, the newly appointed CBFC chairperson, to the body’s regional offices. It was meant to be shared with the film producers’ association. It includes words such as “bastard”, “haramzaada”, “saali” as well as other profanities and innuendos. Interestingly, the word “Bombay” is on the list.
As news spread, a copy of the letter was circulated on social media, leading to backlash from the film industry.
CBFC board members Ashoke Pandit and Chandraprakash Dwivedi also spoke out. “It is a cause of concern for me, also as a filmmaker. I am not sure if the chairperson needs consent of the board. We will bring it up in the meeting scheduled for February 23,” Dwivedi said.
Nihalani said he was only doing his job. “The Cinematograph Act, 1952 specifies that use of objectionable words should not be allowed and violence should not be propagated in cinema. The previous board members and the CEO at CBFC ignored the guidelines until now. I decided to set that right,” he said.
However, the Cinematograph Act, which dates back to 1952, has not been amended. Therefore, several words on the list — especially English profanities or the word “Bombay” — are not mentioned in it.
But Nihalani said the list was drawn up by him and CBFC members who review films. “We prepared a list of obscene words that are commonly used. I included “Bombay” based on the Maharashtra government’s notification of change in the city’s name.”
While the list only has words and expressions in Hindi and English, Nihalani said he will direct regional officers to ban use of profanities in regional languages.
Asked about the move, MoS for Information & Broadcasting Rajyavardhan Rathore said, “The CBFC is an autonomous body. It is in their jurisdiction to come out with something like this. But I feel everything has to be in context. If filmmakers have an issue, the CBFC needs to have discussions with producers.”
Nihalani, however, maintained that the use of words on the list will face a blanket ban, including in adult films. “Why not have the same rule for everyone? The use of such words should just be avoided,” he said.
A film industry insider, however, pointed out that Nihalani’s own films such as Aankhen and Andaz feature songs such as Angana Mein Baba and Main Maal Gaadi — which have innuendos.
Filmmaker Mukesh Bhatt, the head of the producers’ guild, indicated that he was unhappy with the decision. Ritesh Batra, director of the film, The Lunchbox, said a dialogue on the subject was necessary. “I hope the letter triggers one,” he said.
Musician Mihir Joshi, who had to beep out “Bombay” from his song, said, “Mr Nihalani says the word is unconstitutional and that I shouldn’t change geography and history to sound trendy. Try explaining to me how the word is unconstitutional.” Dwivedi pointed out that “Bombay” continues to be in use — such as in the Bombay High Court and Bombay Stock Exchange.
On Friday, Pandit, who had slammed the AIB Knockout, posted a series of tweets opposing Nihalani’s ban. “The list of words ‘not to be used in films’ issued by the chairperson is against the freedom and creative liberty of a filmmaker,” read one tweet.