Pahlaj Nihalani defends Raai Laxmi-starrer Julie 2: 'There's nothing 'asanskaari' about the film'

Abhishek Srivastava

Oct,05 2017 08:30 59 IST

The wry smile on Pahlaj Nihalani’s face says it all. After a tumultuous two years as chairperson of the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC), Nihalani is back at doing what he knows best.

Nihalani is all set to present the upcoming film Julie 2, a semi erotic thriller – a genre that hardly gels with his persona. Though not very active in production of films currently, Pahlaj took the opportunity of distributing the film in certain sectors because of the close relationship he shares with the director of the film.

“When I became a film distributor, I worked with Deepak’s father and uncle. It was Deepak’s uncle who gave me the distribution rights for the Vinod Khanna and Shashi Kapoor-starrer Chor Sipahi in 1975 and launched my film career in a way,” he says. Pahlaj had also approached Deepak Shivdasani for his now shelved film Aarzoo that was to launch Suniel Shetty way back in 1992.

Pahlaj Nihalani. File photo

File image of Pahlaj Nihalani

Ask the man who once produced blockbusters like Aankhen, Shola Aur Shabnam and Ilzaam why he opted for a small film like Julie 2 for his second innings and he goes on a defensive — “Which film would you consider to be a bigger film out of Sholay and Jai Santoshi Maa? Jai Santoshi Maa was a better revenue earner than Sholay. Julie 2 is not a B or C grade film. How can you say that Salman or Shah Rukh Khan are big heroes when their films too are failing in the absence of proper scripts?”

When the first poster of Julie 2 was launched, it hit the digital world like a storm. Within minutes, Nihalani was dubbed an asanskari fellow. Apart from a bikini-clad south siren Raai Laxmi, the only other noteworthy things visible in the poster were a book and a sombrero. Nihalani goes on a tirade to explain that there was nothing asanskari in the poster.

“I became a 'sanskari chairperson' because of a kiss, which I chopped off in a James Bond film. If Aamir Khan kisses in his films, it's acceptable to people but they don’t apply the same logic to a James Bond film. People got affected when a kiss in a James Bond film was passed under U/A certificate. Nobody knows but people at Sony were elated as all earlier spy flicks of James Bond were awarded an A certificate. People did not notice it at that time because the media was not that active. As far as the poster (of Julie 2) is concerned, everything is covered. You can’t even spot the cleavage. How is this asanskari?”

Raai Laxmi in a poster for Julie 2. Image courtesy Facebook/@Julie2Film

Raai Laxmi in a poster of Julie 2. Image courtesy Facebook/@Julie2Film

Nihalani, during his tenure at the CBFC, proved to be the most controversial chairperson the office has ever witnessed. Prior to Pahlaj, famed director Vijay Anand too had landed in a controversy after he batted for the cause of special cinema halls reserved for X-rated films. Nihalani vehemently denies the fact that the government got vexed up with his numerous diktats and thus showed him the doors.

“I was shown the doors despite my achievements. I ensured online certification, a broker-free office, CCTVs to check corruption. Earlier the producer used to arrange for lunch of board members. When I stepped in, I stopped this practice and instead increased the wages of members so that the producer does not feel the burden. I basically practiced (Narendra) Modi Ji’s slogan of naa khaunga, naa khane doonga.”

The ex-chairperson also informs that in the very first month of his tenure, he had suggested the government to adopt six types of ratings system. It was at his suggestion that a committee was formed, under Shyam Benegal, to give advice on various ratings system. “Shyam Benegal has made only adult films all his life. I was surprised that he was assigned to oversee this and he is one person who never wanted censorship in the first place. I even opposed the recommendations of Benegal committee,” explains Pahlaj.

But ask him the reason why he was kicked out of the office and he attributes it to government officials without naming them. “Two ministers really appreciated my work but there was this bandi who thought she knew much more than me. I have been part of the industry for more than fifty years. Despite that, she thought she knew more than me. She got better of the government and I was shown the door.”

While he faced the ire of most filmmakers during his tenure, he believes that he gave them a platform to use as a punching bag. “Everyone looks for a platform and I was the best target and as I replied to everyone. All filmmakers enjoyed my tenure and got a marketing push for their films. At least their films worked because of me.  I am so happy that the industry could make some money because of me.”

Now that Nihalani considers himself 'relatively free', here he is hoping the hit producer gets his mojo back in his second innings.