Meet Pahlaj Nihalani: New Censor Board chief and devoted Modi fan

The last Hindi film that Pahlaj Nihalani, the new chief of the Central Board of Film Certification, produced hit the screens in 2008 and in all probabilities, doesn't ring familiar to a lot of people. Titled Khushboo, it was a remake of Salma Hayek-starrer Fool's Rush (1997) and starred newcomers who no one had heard of before or since. Although he is a film producer by profession, Nihalani's social media accounts have little to do with films at present and are more devoted PR vehicles for the BJP. For example, the latest post on his Facebook page  is one congratulating BJP MLA for Bandra, Mumbai Asish Shelar for his work in the constituency.

It reads: "You are replacing street lights with LED to save the energy and adding beauty in Mumbai.Today on a auspicious day of "makar sakaranti" you organized a wonderful program "maha surya kumbh" with 2000 students to save the energy and reduce global warming through solar cooking..Keep up the great work!!!!"

Though the page also has old photos from his days as a mainstream Bollywood producer, they are generously interspersed with articles on BJP leaders and pictures with them.

Anyone who has looked Nihalani up won't find his PDA for BJP on Facebook surprising. Soon after he was appointed the to the position, Nihalani said, "Narendra Modi is my action hero. I am proudly saying I am a BJP person."  While wearing his party affiliation on his sleeves might have sent a huge, collective sigh across film lovers in India, Nihalani is unfazed.

 Meet Pahlaj Nihalani: New Censor Board chief and devoted Modi fan

Pahlaj Nihalani. Image courtesy: Facebook.

He made no bones about who he owes is sudden catapult to limelight to. "After Indira Gandhi, if people thought of anybody as a leader, it was Vajpayeeji. After that there was no leadership for long. Now, under Modiji, there is a growing faith among the people that they can look forward to a bright future," he told The Indian Express. He even went on to call PM Modi the 'only hero' India has at the moment.

Nihalani's affection for the Prime Minister might be coming to public eye just now with he himself making his way back to news after decades, but he has been a dogged supporter of the BJP for a while now. Since his association with the film industry had been on a definite wane, he used his experience to script eulogies for Narendra Modi, then the PM aspirant and BJP's poll mascot. As the country prepared to go into polls, Nihalani crafted the 'Har Ghar Modi, Ghar Ghar Modi' - a Modi fan's equivalent of 'Tujhe Dekha Toh Yeh Jana Sanam' surely!

The song, a glowing tribute to our Prime Minister, also threw up the popular slogan 'Ghar Ghar Modi'. With lyrics by Hina Khan and sung by one Krishna Beura, the video of the song has men with varied styling - dhoti-ganjee-tika, shiny red shirt and floppy '90s' SRK hair, leather jacket and blonde streaks - lip syncing to Modi's greatness.

So it's not really surprising when Nihalani almost echoes the Vishwa Hindu Parishad's sentiments and said Samson should have resigned much earlier. "The last chairperson should have resigned earlier when there were charges of corruption against the former CBFC CEO," he told The Indian Express.

Nihalani started out as a producer in the '80s and in public memory has lived under the shadow of his more famous brother, filmmaker Govind Nihalani. His Facebook page says he has produced 24 films in Hindi, Bengali and Assamese language.

According to a list on IMDB, the first film that Nihalani produced was Haathkadi, starring Shatrughan Sinha, Reena Roy and Rakesh Roshan. The film hit the screens in 1982. Sinha, a BJP MP now, went on to work with Nihalani in a slew of forgettable films like Gunahon Ka Faisla (1988), Ilzam (1986), Aag Hi Aag (1987). Nihalani and Sinha continue to be great friends. Of the many posts shared by Nihalani recently on his Facebook page, one shows him rejoicing with the Prime Minister at Sinha's son wedding.

Though Sinha's career didn't throw up either remarkable or popular films, he effectively launched the careers of David Dhawan and Govinda. Govinda starred in two or three films before they together hit a jackpot with Ankhen, a hit in 1993 with songs like 'Angna Mein Baba, Dware Pe Maa' The film also starred Shilpa Shirodkar. Nihalani's Hindi films - most of which hit the theatres between mid 80s and mid 90s - were all typical of the time. Violent action, melodramatic dialogues, tacky costumes and hyperbolic, illogical story-lines stashed with catchy songs with one too many sexual innuendos one too many,

As times changed, Nihalani tried changing with it and produced Talaash in 2003. The film starred Akshay Kumar and Kareena Kapoor, but sank without a trace. Not much is know about his cinematic endeavours after that.

A post from Nihalani's Facebook account.

A post from Nihalani's Facebook account.

One can say, Nihalani is the best replacement for Leela Samson that the BJP could ask for. Apart from being a devoted Modi fan, Nihalani seems to have no great issue with 'Sant' Gurmeet Ram Rahim, over whose film Messenger of God, the previous board resigned. In fact, on his personal profile on Facebook, Nihalani has shared a pamphlet printed by Ram Rahim's followers, exhorting people to join his 'cleanliness drive'.

The fact that Nihalani in his career as a film producer has showed no great fascination for quality films and his yet been selected as the chief of the censor board is perhaps less worrying that what he said his aim is now. "I will listen to what the film industry has to say. But the overall agenda is to ensure that we don’t put out anything that will be harmful for society." If BJP and its associated bodies like RSS' and VHP's tradition of force parenting Indian arts, education and culture is anything to go by, the film industry should be a little anxious at the moment.

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Updated Date: Jan 21, 2015 13:27:48 IST