Sorry Mr. Pahlaj Nihalani, you don’t deserve to be the chief of Censor Board

I am not a cinema expert. I am not a cinema intellectual who can comment on nitty-gritty and punctuations of cinema. I am just a normal cinema viewer who takes out some time for out of ordinary office life to watch a few movies.

Last month, team discussed the members of previous Censor Board – Leela Samson, Ira Bhaskar and Anjum Rajabali. A new Board was elected under the chairmanship of Pahlaj Nihalani.

After Leela Samson was targeted for her partisan behavior and connections with Congress, it was expected that Pahlaj Nihalani will not only be targeted, but also be used as a conduit to attack the government. And Pahlaj Nihalani didn’t disappoint his rivals.

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To be very honest, I would not comment on films done by Pahlaj Nihalani because personally I feel that those are not even discussion worthy. I am more bothered about his recent statements, interviews and opinions.

Pahlaj Nihalani
Pahlaj Nihalani

A few days after being inducted in the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) Board, Pahlaj sent a list of cuss-word which will be banned by Censor Board. Even the government conveyed a displeasure with the list; On February 25, Anurag Kashyap met I&B minister Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore, and after the meeting, he expressed satisfaction with the proceedings. However, the harm was done.

While official statements given by Pahlaj Nihalani are spreading sense of despair, his interviews are putting many questions on the current Censor Board. Pahlaj Nihalani shot a self-targeting missile when he targeted Sharmila Tagore for passing films like Omkara and Gangs of Wasseypur.  The so-called cinema stalwart probably went with an abuse-detector, closed his eyes, put fingers inside his ears, counted the number of times the abuse-detector beeped after the movie, and concluded his wisdom.

In an interview to Dipti Nagpaul, The Indian Express, when Pahlaj Nihalani was asked his idea of a good film, he said, “One that can be viewed with the family, the focus should be on the story, the emotions and dialogues, not the craft”, he also added, “like my film Aankhen, a good film should either entertain or impart values.”

I will not comment on Aankhen, because I have already said that I don’t find his movie discussion worthy, but the Panchtantra-motivated-values-seeking Censor Board chief shocked me with his inept single dimension judgment of “good” cinema. Cinema has evolved from the trivial definition of “mirror of society” to expression of anything which can be imagined with creativity and skills, but Pahlaj Nihalani is still sauntering in the cultural lanes created by Sooraj Barjatya where everyone, including dog and cats, are happy family members. Mr. Nihalani is supported by team members like Ashoke Pandit, who boasts about intellect required to head a cultural board: “An official from the railways board cannot head a cultural institution”, but declares AIB as a porn show.

I feel bad for art and cinema in India. Cinema is not engineering in which screws and bolts need to be fixed in particular order and SOPs (Standard Operating Procedures) have to be followed. Cinema spans infinite possibilities of expressions. International cinema is  Neorealism, Nouvelle Vague, La Nouvelle Vague, and India, where Parallel Cinema movement started in 1950, is regressing to the happy-ending-high-moral format. As earlier mentioned by bwoyblunder, “We don’t need preachers or priests in the Censor board, to uphold whatever their idea of “Indian Culture” is, but we need artists, who can understand what another artist is trying to convey.  The board must respect the Freedom of Expression of an artist, and must allow it within the realms of the law. Wherever there is a law (like Section 294) which can be misused, the Censor board should take a progressive stance. We don’t need shackles, just guidelines.”

Pahlaj Nihalani is an easy target for the media. He will be regularly targeted for his views on religion, sex, violence and ethos in cinema. Sadly, more than anything else, cinema will suffer. Chandra Prakash Dwivedi, who is also a part of the Censor Board, is much mature and logical than Pahlaj Nihalani or Ashoke Pandit. His interviews and statements inject hope and positivity. It would be better for cinema and the image of Censor Board if he is appointed as the chief of Censor Board.

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