Pahlaj Nihalani has been ousted as the chief of censor board and replaced by lyricist and adman , Prasoon Joshi. Several persons from the film fraternity have lauded this as a positive step and congratulated Prasoon Joshi on the appointment. Social media erupted with funny memes on Nihalani, who had earned the nickname ‘Sanskari Nihalani’ during his tenure at Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC).
Pahlaj Nihalani was appointed to head the board in January 2015 when the then CBFC chief Leela Samson, along with nine other board members, resigned from the board following the controversy around Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh’s movie Messenger Of God.
Nihalani’s tenure as chief has been marred by controversy. He was infamous in suggesting several cuts before allowing the film to be released. The mandate of CBFC is to certify films, but Nihalani effectively blocked release of films that didn’t give in to the edits suggested, by refusing to rate the films. Recent films that faced his ire are Udta Punjab, Lipstick Under My Burkha, Indu Sarkar amongst others.
He was also sharply criticised in many circles for his decision to mute words like “cow” and “Hindu India” in a documentary on economist and Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen.
Several Hollywood films had to go under the scissors or accept the ‘A’ certificate to be released in India during Nihalani’s tenure at CBFC. La La Land was released with an ‘A’ certificate while James Bond movie ‘Spectre’ had to trim a kissing scene.
Now that Nihalani has finally been asked to drop down from his position at CBFC, there is hope that good and sensible cinema shall not face a bottleneck during censor certification. Further, the suggestions of the Shyam Benegal Committee is likely to make it easier for CBFC to rate films and effectively remove any blockages for the film’s release due to censorship. The main recommendation of the committee was that CBFC should only be a film certification body whose scope should be restricted to categorizing the suitability of the film to audience groups on the basis of age and maturity except in certain instances when the film contravenes the Cinematograph Act or crosses the ceiling limit of highest laid certification (A).
Nihalani’s replacement, Prasoon Joshi is a much respected figure in the film industry as well as the advertising world. A Padmashree awardee, Prasoon has penned memorable lyrics for films like Fanaa, Taare Zameen Par, Rang De Basanti etc.