Free Press Journal

Politically-inspired custodians of morality


It is disgusting how institutions that have no sane reason to be administered by political appointees are forced to get deeply enmeshed in politics in reality. Take the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) for instance. During UPA rule it was Sonia Gandhi who called the shots in packing this film certification body with Congress supporters. Ms Leela Samson, who became its chairperson was by all accounts a diehard protégé of Sonia Gandhi.

The BJP, when it came to power at the Centre, was piqued that Congress had packed the board with its supporters. What followed was not an attempt to make this culture-related organization independent but to replace its chairperson and members with BJP-inclined members.

The chief of the new board, Pankaj Nihalani, plunged into his role with the resolve to ingratiate himself to the BJP top brass. The manner in which he issued a directive banning the use of 34 cuss words with double-meanings, profanities, and those glorifying bloodshed or violence against women was a clear signal that he was assuming the role of a moral arbiter. After a bitter tussle with some of the members of the board, Pankaj Nihalani has had to give in, virtually abandoning that directive.

Meanwhile, another member of the board, Ashok Pandit, who was upstaged to the chairperson’s role, is making a scene criticizing Nihalani’s directive as hitting “at the creative liberty of a film-maker.”

Nihalani  is an unabashed Narendra Modi fan who swears allegiance to him. Most of the new board’s members are BJP apologists. While the immediate provocation for the removal of Leela Samson was a feature film that unabashedly sought to promote a film on the chief of the Sacha Sauda sect in north India which she sought to block, one of the first tasks of Nihalani was to clear that film for release.

In all this drama, the real rationale for the CBFC being a mature forum of debate on issues of art and culture is getting lost. That is unfortunate indeed.