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CBFC chief Pahlaj Nihalani in many controversies but not likely to be ‘cut’ by govt

Nihalani's “tribute” to the PM, titled “Mera desh hai mahaan, mera desh hai jawan”, was pulled off cinema screens the very next in some places, two days later in some others.

Written by Raghvendra Rao |
Updated: November 24, 2015 10:08:32 pm
Central Board of Film Certification, CBFC head, Pahlaj Nihalani, CBFC Pahlaj Nihalani, Pahlaj Nihalani spectre, Nihalani prem rattan dhan payo, CBFC chief Pahlaj Nihalani.

A growing sense of unease appears to be developing within the corridors of the Information & Broadcasting ministry over the manner in which the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC)–led by filmmaker Pahlaj Nihalani—has been operating of late.

The CBFC, popularly referred to as Censor Board, has been finding itself at the centre of numerous controversies, ranging from Nihalani’s move of producing a music video eulogising Prime Minister Narendra Modi and ensuring that it gets played during the intermission of a recent Salman Khan-starrer to the cuts made in the latest James Bond flick to the manner in which several Board members have been engaging in public spats with Nihalani over issues related to censorship.

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Nihalani’s “tribute” to the PM, titled “Mera desh hai mahaan, mera desh hai jawan”, was pulled off cinema screens the very next in some places, two days later in some others. While cinema operators maintained that showing the five-minute long video during the intermission of Hindi-film Prem Ratan Dhan Payo was causing delays in running the shows and that was the reason why it was pulled off screens.

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Reliable government sources, however, have told The Indian Expressthat the decision to take the music video off theatres followed the “displeasure” expressed by the top echelons in the government to the CBFC chief. “Why do you think it was pulled off within two days? It did irk the government that such a video about the PM had been shot and aired without even running it through the government. Even government ministries have to seek clearance if they wish to put the PM’s photograph in an advertisement. Here, an entire music video having PM’s visuals was shown without no clearance,” a source said. “To add to it, it was felt that the video itself was of poor quality,” the source added, saying that there was also a visible “conflict of interest” if the chief of CBFC ends up d0ing something like this.

The government’s discomfiture doesn’t stop at that. The CBFC’s consistent insistence on getting cuts made in films—James Bond movie Spectre being the latest example where several kissing scenes have been “shortened” and several “contentious” words replaced—isn’t going down well in the ministry corridors. “The MoS (Rajyavardhan Rathore) has been on record saying that the CBFC should just be certifying films according to their content and those certifications should determine the age-groups which can watch those films. Chopping off content is something the government is not in favour of,” a government source explained.

Officials in the I&B ministry also point out that it is not as if cuts have not been made before in films and that it is only happening now under Nihalani. “The last James Bond film Skyfall, in fact, had many more cuts than have been made in Spectre. Certain kinds of scenes and dialogues have routinely been chopped off, particularly from English films, all through these years,” a source said, indicating that it was probably Nihalani’s inability to take fellow Board Members along that was causing him problems and bringing all his actions under the scanner.

Several Board Members—Ashoke Pandit being the most vociferous one—have been taking on Nihalani almost on a daily basis, questioning Nihalani’s style of functioning and even going to the extent of calling him an “anarchist” and a “dictator”. Not to lie low, Nihalani also has hit back accusing Pandit of forgery and cheating.

Despite taking note of all these verbal spats between CBFC members and Nihalani, the I&B ministry is unlikely to directly step into the matter. Nihalani’s job as the CBFC chief also appears to be under no immediate threat. Wait and watch and “not appear too interfering” seems to be the I&B’s ministry policy for the time being.

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