When he was the chief of the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) or Censor Board, Pahlaj Nihalani had run into several filmmakers who accused him of snipping their movies arbitrarily. His fights with directors like Anurag Kashyap for Udta Punjab and the makers of Lipstick Under by Burkha are legendary. However, in an ironical twist, the shoe is in the other foot now. Pahlaj, as a filmmaker, is in a fight with the current Censor Board and he is in no mood to back off.
His on-release production Rangeela Raja featuring Govinda in a double role has been ordered multiple cuts. And Nihalani isn’t taking it. Blasting the current censor chief Prasoon Joshi he says, “This is nothing but personal vendetta. When I was the chairperson (at the CBFC), I left a lot of people angry and upset with me. Now when my film has been submitted for censoring, they are taking out their frustrations on me. But I won’t go down without a fight.”
Nihalani who claims to have followed all the guidelines as the censor chief, accuses Joshi of bending rules to please friends. “Everybody knows about Prasoon Joshi’s enduring friendship with Aamir Khan. No one is surprised that Thugs Of Hindostan (starring Aamir Khan) was given an all-clear censor certification out of turn while my film Rangeela Raja which was submitted well in time 60 days ahead of release, has been slapped with multiple cuts which I am not taking. No sir!” Nihalani says a new impromptu rule has been added to the censor guidelines to please influential producers and give them undue priority for censoring. “A producer can now submit an affidavit where he takes an undertaking that he needs a censor certificate in a hurry, breaking the 60-day rule.”
Nihalani says this new additional rule is bogus. “How can the CBFC follow up whether a film actually releases on the day given on the affidavit? This is done only to accommodate handpicked producers whereas I am being harassed because I’ve a history with the CBFC.”
Nihalani says the cuts ordered in his film are absurd. “There is no vulgarity or no double meaning dialogues. Still I’ve been asked to delete a massive number of dialogues and scenes. In one sequence my heroine asks my hero what he’d like as guru dakshina. He says Eklavya cut his thumb and gave it to his guru, to which she tells the hero he can cut her lips. There is no kiss. Only a suggestion of a kiss. Still I’ve been asked to cut out this harmless playful scene. Why? Movies like Anurag Kashyap’s Manmarziyan are filled with kissing and lovemaking scenes and yet passed with a ‘UA.”
Nihalani says his film is being made a scapegoat by the CBFC and he is all set for a legal battle. “Prasoon Joshi is breaking guidelines to please his friends. But he can’t bully me into cutting harmless scenes just because I was once in his chair and favouring no one. I am going to court to fight this out. I will see Mr Joshi in court.”
I tried to get in touch with Prasoon Joshi . But he chose not to reply.