The film certifying body of India – Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) has dismissed Pahlaj Nihalani as its chief, making way for his replacement – the famous Indian lyricist Prasoon Joshi, CEO, India and chairman (Asia Pacific) of McCann Worldgroup, along with other Indian film personalities set to join the board including actor Vidya Balan and Gautami Tadimalla, amongst others.
Joshi replaced filmmaker Pahlaj Nihalani, who was appointed as CBFC chairman in 2015. During his tenure as the CBFC chief, Nihalani became the mascot of controversy for his often extreme views on censorship. He was criticised for curbing the artistic rights of filmmakers with movies like Udta Punjab, Lipstick Under My Burkha and Indu Sarkar among others.
Reportedly, Nihalani was informed about the possibilities of his replacement last month by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, otherwise his three-year tenure was to end in January next year. However, according to Nihalani, he didn’t know about the decision and only came to know about it through the media.
According to the people who worked with Nihalani, he treated the CBFC like his personal sphere, while Indian filmmakers and critics often opposed him for demanding irrational cuts and moral policing.
Nihalani recently asked for multiple cuts in director Madhur Bhandarkar’s film Indu Sarkar and also refused to certify Lipstick Under My Burkha on the basis of it being woman-centric, screening sexual expressions and absurd words. He recently objected the word ‘intercourse’ in the Shah Rukh Khan and Anushka Sharma starrer Jab Harry Met Sejal and was also sharply criticised for his decision to bleep words like ‘cow’ and ‘Hindu India’ in a documentary on economist and nobel laureate Amartya Sen. Not only Bollywood, but also Hollywood movies like Fifty Shades Of Grey (which was not allowed to release in India over its erotic content) and Spectre (released in India after its kissing scenes were chopped short) also became victims to his ways of censorship.
However, contradicting reactions of the film industry and the general public towards his censorship ways, Nihalani says 98 pc of the film industry was happy with his work and it was just 2 pc that are unhappy, and that CBFC became corruption-free and online certification also became transparent during his tenure.
Commenting on the appointment of Joshi as the new CBFC chief, Sandeep Goyal, chairman, Mogae Media, stated, “Prasoon is an excellent choice as Censor Board Chairman. He brings maturity and gravitas to the job. Prasoon has close of 30 years of experience in handling brands, both big and small. He understands critical dimensions of all communication, with balance and equanimity. He himself is a celebrated lyricist. A practitioner. His dispensation, I am sure, will be even handed and just. Prasoon Joshi is a young man with a mature mind, a well-rounded outlook and loads of good quality exposure. The government has made a good choice.”
CBFC’s new move has invited mixed reactions from the film and television industry as well as from the media:
— Sophie Choudry (@Sophie_Choudry) August 12, 2017
Lyricist #PrasoonJoshi replaces Pahlaj Nihalani as censor board chief. CBFC is going from bad to verse
— Madhavan Narayanan (@madversity) August 11, 2017
— Papa CJ (@PapaCJ) August 11, 2017
Padma Shri (2015) award winner Prasoon Joshi, is known for his contribution to films like Black, Taare Zameen Par, Bhaag Milkha Bhaag, Rang De Basanti, Delhi-6 and Neerja and for penning the theme song for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ‘Swachh Bharat Abhiyan’ and notable other campaigns.
Joshi’s appointment also marked a new dawn for the CBFC which has set up a new board that includes the likes of Gautami Tadimalla, Narendra Kohli, Naresh Chandra Lal, Neil Herbert Nongkynrih, Vivek Agnihotri, Waman Kendre, Vidya Balan, TS Nagabharana, Ramesh Patange, Vani Tripati Tikoo, Jeevitha Rajasekhar and Mihir Bhuta.