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Censor Board Chief Pahlaj Nihalani Gets the Boot; Prasoon Joshi to Replace Him

The decision to sack Nihalani and replace him with Prasoon Joshi has drawn widespread applause from the film fraternity. Dubbed the 'sanskari censor' for the arbitrary cuts he ordered in many films, Nihalani had several run-ins, both with film directors and his colleagues.


Updated:August 11, 2017, 10:34 PM IST

New Delhi: Controversial censor board chief Pahlaj Nihalani's tenure has been abruptly cut short by the Centre, which on Friday named noted lyricist Prasoon Joshi as his replacement.

The government has completely revamped the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC). The new members include actor Vidya Balan, theatre artiste Waman Kendre, filmmaker Vivek Agnihotri and author Narendra Kohli.

A source in the Information and Broadcasting ministry said Nihalani was asked to go a few months before his tenure ended because of the frequent complaints against him.

Dubbed the 'sanskari censor' for the arbitrary cuts he ordered in many films, Nihalani had several run-ins, both with film directors and his colleagues. Many filmmakers had complained that Nihalani acted in a high-handed manner and infringed on their right to freedom of expression and creative pursuit

Among his recent run-ins was the clash with Lipstick Under My Burqa director Alankrita Srivastava, whose movie explored female sexuality, when he demanded cuts and termed the film “lady-oriented”. He had also demanded that words such as “cow,” “Hindu India,” “Hindutva in India” and “Gujarat” be removed from a documentary on economist Amartya Sen. His latest controversy was when he asked for 1 lakh retweets of a trailer of Shah Rukh-starrer Jab Harry Met Sejal to let it pass as it had the word “intercourse.”

Filmmaker Vivek Agnihotri, who has been appointed a member of the censor board, said there would be wide structural changes in the government-appointed body which oversees all movies before they are released in India.

He said Information and Broadcasting Minister Smriti Irani was looking at the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) with a fresh perspective. “With Prasoon Joshi heading it, it was tempting for me to come on board.”

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 designing successful ad campaigns. Honoured with Padma Shri and the National Award, he has penned the theme song for Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Swachh Bharat Abhiyan and other campaigns.

The decision to sack Nihalani and the choice of replacement has drawn widespread applause from the film fraternity.

Veteran filmmaker Shyam Benegal, who led a panel that has made recommendations for a revamp of the Cinematograph Act, 1952, said: “Prasoon Joshi is an excellent choice. He is a very fine poet and also headed one of the best advertising agencies. So his understanding of the medium is very good."

Filmmaker Madhur Bhandarkar, who ran into trouble with Nihalani over his political drama “Indu Sarkar”, said, “”Prasoon is an evolved person. He comes from the advertising background and will have a modern point of view. Choosing Prasoon is a welcome decision by the government.”

Nihalani, who has been a film producer and describes himself as a “true Indian” on Twitter, had taken over as CBFC chief in 2015 from Leela Samson.

He began running into skirmishes with film producers over cuts and beeps almost immediately after. The first movie to face his scissor-happy ways was Hollywood-flick “Fifty Shades of Grey.” The film was not allowed to be released in India due to its erotic content.

“NH10”, “Dum Laga Ke Haisha”, “Aligarh”, “Udta Punjab”, “Lipstick Under My Burkha”, “Indu Sarkar” and “Babumoshai Bandookbaaz” were some of the films to face his wrath.

Even James Bond film "Spectre" couldn't escape his scissors. Pahlaj had faced a lot of flak when he slashed a kissing scene in James Bond movie Spectre for being 'too excessive'. In “Udta Punjab”, he asked the makers to drop the reference of Punjab from the movie title and asked for as many as 89 cuts, triggering widespread outrage.

| Edited by: Aditya Nair
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