New Delhi: Pahlaj Nihalani, whose decisions as the CBFC chief repeatedly angered the film fraternity, was on Friday replaced by noted lyricist and ad guru Prasoon Joshi, drawing widespread applause from the film fraternity.
Filmmaker Vivek Agnihotri, who has been appointed a member of the censor board, told IANS about the structural changes in the government-appointed body which oversees all movies before they are released in India.
Agnihotri said Information and Broadcasting Minister Smriti Irani was looking at the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) with a fresh perspective. “With Prasoon Joshi heading it, it was tempting for me to come on board.”
Joshi is known for his contribution to films like “Black”, “Taare Zameen Par”, “Bhaag Milkha Bhaag”, “Rang De Basanti”, “Delhi-6” and “Neerja” and for designing successful ad campaigns. Honoured with Padma Shri, the National Award winner penned the theme song for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Swachh Bharat Abhiyan and other campaigns.
Nihalani, who has been a film producer and describes himself on Twitter as “true Indian”, took over as CBFC chairperson in 2015 from danseuse Leela Samson, a year after Modi became the Prime Minister.
But he began running into skirmishes with film producers over cuts, beeps and disclaimers he insisted on, which the industry often found unfair.
Hollywood movie “Fifty Shades Of Grey” became the first victim to his ways of censorship. It was not allowed to release in India over its erotic content.
Nihalani soon turned his attention to the Indian industry with films like “NH10”, “Dum Laga Ke Haisha”, “Aligarh”, “Udta Punjab”, “Haraamkhor”, “Lipstick Under My Burkha”, “Indu Sarkar” and “Babumoshai Bandookbaaz” facing his wrath.
Even James Bond film “Spectre” couldn’t escape his scissors. It was released only after its kissing scenes were cut short.
In “Udta Punjab”, a movie about the drug problem in Punjab, Nihalani and his examining committee insisted on as many as 89 cuts, triggering widespread condemnation.
Joshi’s appointment as the new censor chief drew appreciation.
Veteran filmmaker Shyam Benegal, who led a panel that has made recommendations for a revamp of the Cinematograph Act, 1952, told IANS: “Prasoon Joshi is an excellent choice. He is a very fine poet and also headed one of the best advertising agencies. So his understanding of the medium is very good.”
Filmmaker Madhur Bhandarkar, who ran into trouble with Nihalani over his political drama “Indu Sarkar”, told IANS: “Prasoon is a very evolved person. He comes from the advertising background and will have a modern point of view. Choosing Prasoon is a welcome decision by the government.
“I would like to thank Smriti Iraniji and Rajyavardhan Singh Rathoreji for their decision. I am sure Prasoon will have a different outlook. He understands today’s movies well.”
Before cracking down on a variety of movies, Nihalani had produced a string of films including “Paap ki Duniya”, “Aag ka Gola”, “Shola aur Shabnam”, “Aankhen” and “Talaash: The Hunt Begins”.