Pahlaj Nihalani is one angry man. It’s not so much his exit as the chairperson of the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) that has hurt him. It’s the gleeful celebration within the film industry at his departure that has angered and saddened him. In a no-holds-barred interview Nihalani tells it to Subhash K Jha like it is. Here is the former censor chief, uncensored.
How does it feel to be out of power?
I was never power-hungry. Anurag Kashyap has said somewhere that I derived pleasure in humiliating filmmakers who came to the CBFC to get their film certified. That I’d make them stand for hours while I lectured them. Would Kashyap like to prove what he’s saying? Or does he think he can scare me by his bullying tactics that he is well-known for?
I can’t answer for Mr Kashyap. But apparently his films are highly regarded?
Oh, really? Is that why no major actor wants to work with him? Do you know how much money his films have lost? The number runs in multiple crores. And still he continues to behave as if he is the spokesperson of all the disgruntled elements in the film industry. He should concentrate on his problems. Not the problems that he claims filmmakers had in dealing with me when I was the CBFC chairperson.
He isn’t the only one. So many other filmmakers have spoken up about your highhandedness?
Who are these filmmakers? Hansal Mehta? Mukesh Bhatt? Prakash Jha? Mukesh Bhatt? Ekta Kapoor? Tell me, which film of theirs has been a success? For years Ekta Kapoor has been spreading twisted perverse values in Indian soaps. Now she is doing the same on the web. Some people never change. And they want the rational elements in society to also become degenerate.
Still, no matter what you say the fact is, your job was to certify, not cut films?
Who told you that? Please show me one smattering of directive from the Government saying I was supposed to only certify and not cut. That’s a completely wrong perception. The very reason for the existence of the censor board is to make changes, modify and yes, cut when necessary. This was the instruction given to me .And yet when I did my job I was labelled a sanskaari censor chief, an arrogant, high-handed autocratic scissors-happy madman.
Does it hurt you that no spokesperson of the BJP came forward to defend you?
Neither of the two ministers of Information & Broadcasting Shri Arun Jaitley or Shri Venkaiah Naidu ever made their displeasure clear to me. I was given to understand I was going about it the right way. Even Rajyavardhan Rathore (Minister Of State For Information & Broadcasting) approved of my way of working. And yet he would project a completely different image when he met stars and filmmakers. He made me look like the sanskaari villain.
Even your own board members were against you?
Two of them Ashok Pandit and Chandraprakash Diwedi campaigned relentlessly against CBFC’s interests. I had repeatedly complained to the I & B ministry about them. But no action was taken against them. It seems the I & B ministry wanted their cuts and at the same time wanted to project a liberal image.
Are you unhappy to lose the CBFC’s chairmanship?
Not at all. I did my best. And now my successor Prasoon Joshi is already being criticized by the same people who relentlessly pursued me and hounded me out of the job. The poor chap hasn’t even started yet. Let me warn him. He has an uphill task ahead.