A person like Pahlaj Nihalani,
who has always been in controversies ever since he joined the Central Board of
Film Certification (CBFC), popularly known as the Censor Board, as its chief
decision maker, how can he be a blessing in disguise for the film watchdog that
routinely exceeds its brief and goes on
censoring films on flimsy grounds like we saw in the 'Udta Punjab' case?
But when we see the tough
responses from the government after the uproar over 'Udta Punjab'
censorship/certification issue and some tough words for Pahlaj Nihalani, we can
sense something positive is about to happen.
And if it happens so, it will be
a much needed reform languishing for years.
India's CBFC has become
synonymous with controversies. Sometimes, it finds a children movie like 'The
Jungle Book' scary enough to give it a U/A-certificate that requires adult
supervision. Sometimes, it objects to kissing scenes in James Bond's latest
flick 'Spectre'. Pahlaj Nihalani was there both the times.
Also, it has been an open secret
that how money exchanges hands for a film to get CBFC certificate. The arrest
of CBFC CEO Rakesh Kumar from Mumbai in 2014 on bribing charges had created a
storm. Many filmmakers then had come out in the open to speak how difficult and
money-laced it had become to get a film passed through the Censor Board. The
episode showed how corruption had become a way of life in the statutory body
that regulates public exhibition of films in India. In fact, corruption in the
censor/film certification watchdog has become common to the extent that now no
one pays attention to it.
Now if that Censor Board sees
some fundamental changes, because of Pahlaj Nihalani's illogical attitude on
Udta Punjab, Mr. Nihalani's term indeed would be a blessing in disguise for
everyone who loves freedom of expression and feels disturbed by the bizarre
ways of CBFC.
Information & Broadcasting
Minister Arun Jaitley has given ample indications in this direction hinting
'radical changes' in the functioning of the film watchdog. His deputy
Rajyawardhan Rathore had tweeted, "Certification only, not censorship".
And to cement Pahlaj Nihalani
angle to it, union minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, in a public snub, said prime
minister Narendra Modi didn't need sycophants. The sub came after Pahlaj
Nihalani tried to portray himself as a Narendra Modi loyalist by saying that
'he would feel proud in being labelled a Modi Chamcha (sycophant).
Also, a central government
counsel told the Delhi High Court that CBFC would not challenge the Bombay High
Court order in the Supreme Court.
The Bombay High Court on June 13
had cleared the film with just one cut against Nihalani's demands of multiple
cuts including omission of references to the names of all places in the film including
Punjab. The court firmly backed the film fraternity's sincerity and its need
for freedom of expression in choosing subjects of films.