India’s chief of the Censor Board has had trouble proving his mettle in pretty much every department, except exhibiting sense of humour. It’s another thing that he doesn’t know he has it. Pahlaj Nihalani’s statements justifying the proposed ‘cuts’ in films applying for certification have managed to invoke more humour than all the slapstick comedy films he made in the 80s, taken together.
From declaring that a film on homosexuality will “ignite unnatural passion” to reducing the length of James Bond’s onscreen kisses, saying “a kiss THAT long can lead to lust”, Nihalani has more or less covered the entire ground when it comes to absurdity. His most recent remarks in an interview, however, where he threatens to resign if the charges of favoritism towards big production houses are proved against him, are not a matter of joke. Because in the same breath, the chairman of the censor board, an autonomous body, also reveals that it is regular practice for influential producers to approach the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, and have them (he doesn’t name anyone) call him to clear a big-budget film out of turn.
As it goes in India, it’s hardly a surprise that lobbying, and putting pressure through the government helps influential producers get their ads, trailers and films certified ahead of turn. What’s surprising, rather alarming, however, is the casualness with which Nihalani mentions it. “Yes we are asked to look ‘specially’ into certain films because some big-name producers bypass us and ask the I&B ministry directly for clearance,” he says, almost shrugging off the practice that should have had his heckles raised much more than the length of the Bond kiss did. He does realize the implications, however, when he adds, “This undermines our power and makes us look silly.” Like hell it does, Mr Nihalani, and will continue to do so, till the censor board does not shift its focus from raising inconsequential objections to every bold attempt at new-age cinema to actually facilitating the independently produced, small-budget films make their way into the theatres.
Till the time the censor board is stuck in the rut of passing derisory orders such as the recent one where films made on politicians have to get a ‘No objection certificate’ from every public figure perceived to have been shown in the film (three films currently stuck on account of NOCs awaited from PM Modi, AAP chief Arvind Kejriwal and former PM Manmohan Singh), silly isn’t an adjective that’ll leave the Board anytime soon. And by the way, Sir, kudos for having cleared the title of ‘Bank Chor’, despite successfully discovering that it sounds similar to a Hindi cuss-word. So what if you’ve made them re-dub it everywhere in the film to pronounce the word ‘Bank’ differently. At last it’s suitably sanskaari now. – Hindustan Times