Pahlaj Nihalani has been an active part of the gossip grapevines when it comes to Bollywood’s sensitive relationship with the censor board. Though the bitter sweet relationship has always fuelled the media, things became very open when CBFC chairperson, Pahlaj Nihalani became a daily headline for not allowing ‘Udta Punjab’ release as a free script. Since then, Pahlaj Nihalani was off and on the media for censoring a lot of other movies. So much was the attention on Mr. Pahlaj that he was sacked by the government just 5 months before his tenure with the CBFC ended. Since then, Nihalani had been keeping mum until now, when he has given a candid interview with senior journalist Bharati Pradhan for Lehren TV.
In an interview that is no less than a bombshell for the government and the film industry, Nihalani seems happy to have got the ‘Kaanton Ka Taaj’ removed from his head. Also, he claims that he has been sacked from his position by Smriti Irani, the newly-elected Union Information and Broadcasting Minister, for not following her orders.
“At the I&B Ministry, I was their target number 1. It all started when I didn’t clear Madhur Bhandarkar’s, Indu Sarkar. She gave me a call asking why I hadn’t done so. I said I was following guidelines and now the film is already with the Tribunal. I told her if she wants she can get it cleared from the Tribunal. I wasn’t massaging her ego and it was only a matter of time before I was thrown out,” he said.
Commenting on the rumors that Ekta Kapoor might be responsible for sacking him since he gave a tough time to one of her movies, Lipstick Under My Burkha, he shushed all the claims saying he doesn’t think she would have anything to do with that.
Talking about one of his biggest spat with the film industry during the release of Udta Punjab, he claimed that it was the ministry who ordered him not to tighten the reigns for Abhishek Chaubey’s controversial drugs-drama, Udta Punjab, in order to avoid any boiling controversies as the film exposed the political drug mafia in the state of Punjab.
“There was pressure from every side to not clear the film. I cannot tell you how much pressure I was under. Despite that, I cleared the film albeit with cuts (there were over 70 cuts until the Bombay High Court allowed the film’s release with a single one). There was a letter from the Home Ministry to not clear Kabir Khan’s Bajrangi Bhaijaan as it was releasing on Eid and they feared that it could lead to communal problems.”
Usually cast as the man who had clear issues with expression in the film industry, Nihalani said he stood by the makers of the film Bajrangi Bhaijaan,
“I knew the story. It wasn’t what they feared. There was miscommunication. I stood by the makers. Yet I was made out to be the villain. Such is the industry,”
Nihalaj talks about the industry to be standing on a strong foundation of ‘give and take’, backbiting and stern competition, where everything is known and yet not talked of.
You can watch the whole interview here,
What do you think about Pahalaj Nihalani after hearing his side of the story? Is CBFC really the body that handles what is shown to the public or is it our democratic government that decides what hits the screen?