Since his appointment as the head of the Central Board of Film Certification in January 2015, Pahlaj Nihalani has made headlines for a number of controversial moves and statements.
April 2014: Nihalani, a known film producer, came up with an election campaign video for BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi titled ‘Har Har Modi’.
Jan 17, 2015: Then-CBFC chief Leela Samson, along with nine other board members, resigned from the board following the controversy around Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh’s movie Messenger Of God.
Jan 19, 2015: Pahlaj Nihalani appointed as CBFC chief.
Jan 20, 2015: In one of his first interviews after becoming the CBFC chief, Nihalani said that he is a proud BJP man and Narendra Modi is his ‘action man’.
Jan 24, 2015: Nihalani, in an interview with a leading daily, said that certain cuss words will not be tolerated in films. He suggested a list of words that shouldn’t be used without a solid context. Many filmmakers called it an attack on their freedom of expression.
Feb, 2015: A list of banned words started doing the rounds on the internet. The list had many contentious words, including “Bombay”, leaving the board red-faced.
Feb, 2015: Nihalani targeted former censor board chief Sharmila Tagore for clearing Omkara in 2006. He said Tagore didn’t question the content of the film because it had her son Saif Ali Khan in the lead.
March 12, 2015: Censor board member Ashoke Pandit called Nihalani a ‘tyrant’ and accused him of giving illogical ‘diktats’. He talked at length about the cuts suggested in Hollywood film Fifty Shades Of Grey in a Facebook post.
March 2015: Raj Amit Kumar was stopped from releasing his film Unfreedom, a film based on homosexual relationships, which led to widespread criticism from LGBT rights activists as well as film makers. “They told me that Hindus and Muslims will start fighting, and that the film will also ignite ‘unnatural passion’. I was aghast as my film is not provocative,” Raj Amit Kumar was quoted as saying.
October-November, 2015: Censor board trimmed down a kissing scene in the latest instalment of the James Bond franchise, Spectre, and said it was needed to keep up with the Indian ‘sanskars’.
November 12, 2015: The audiences at theatre across the country are shocked when the Salman Khan-starrer Prem Ratan Dhan Payo is preceded by a video, Mera Desh Hai Mahaan, which praised PM Modi and showed some foreign locales as the symbol of India’s meteoric growth. The video left the BJP red-faced. Later, Nihalani said that it was a projection of India’s future.
November 17, 2015: Nihalani said that he is planning to make a film on the students of the Film and Television Institute of India, Pune, which will bring out their ant-national activities, sparking a row on social media.
December 2015: When trailers of sex comedy films Mastizaade and Kyaa Kool Hain Hum 3 were released online, several people questioned the vulgarity in the videos. Pahlaj Nihalani, however, told DNA, “We are in a catch-22 situation. Karo toh gaali, na karo toh gaali. When we were strict with the vulgarity quotient, we were called prudes. Sanskaari became a gaali. And to endorse obscenity was seen worthy of taali. So, we certified some films with scenes and dialogues that we would otherwise have never passed as they went against our guidelines.””
Dec 27, 2015: Central Minister Arun Jaitley hinted towards a possible change in the hierarchy of the Censor Board.
Dec 30, 2015: The information and broadcasting ministry questioned the intent behind clearing the trailers of Kya Kool Hain Hum 3 and Mastizaade. Nihalani said it was done to shed the board’s ‘sanskari’ image.