Pahlaj Nihalani sacked: Hansal Mehta says film fraternity should not rejoice just yet
Pahlaj Nihalani, who was the chairman of the Central Bureau for Film Certification (CBFC), was sacked on 11 August, and lyricist-adman Prasoon Joshi was appointed the new chief. This decision was welcomed by several members of the film fraternity, who took to social media to express hopes about an improvement in the process of certification and more reasonable censorship.
Hansal Mehta, director of films such as Aligarh, Shahid and City Lights, warns that the film fraternity should not rejoice so soon, as the guidelines followed by the CBFC are still the same, adding that Nihalani's negative reputation was not a consequence of just his political inclination but also his own decisions and absurd statements.
Speaking to Firstpost, he said, "We should not rejoice so early and we should not be focussing on one individual because unless the outdated guidelines of the Cinematograph act is changed, nothing will happen. Tomorrow if Prasoon [Joshi] takes harsh decisions because he is bound by law then again we will question his politics and sensibilities. Even when Sharmila Tagore was CBFC chief we kept questioning her judgement and whenever it suited us we aligned her thinking to the ruling government’s idealogy. Same thing happened with Pahlaj Nihalani, we aligned his thinking to the government’s idealogy but he made matter worse with his silly statements. He was also the victim of outdated law."
In the past, Mehta has had several run-ins with the CBFC. When his film Aligarh's trailer was given an 'A' rating and thwarted its promotoions, he called the board the 'cultural police'. He said, "This is an attempt to thwart my promotion. They cannot ban the film, because my film does not in any way go against the guidelines of the Cinematograph Act." He also said that this decision showed that the CBFC was homophobic.
After the controversy surrounding the certification and cuts given to Udta Punjab became public, Mehta came out in support of the film and its makers. "Must we always have to approach the courts for redressal of our grievances when there is a body appointed by the government to perform the very same task? If the CBFC is unable to interpret the guidelines without restricting artistic freedom, then why does the CBFC exist at all?" he asked.
(With inputs from Seema Sinha)