Bhakt Pahlaj Nihalani BJP appointed Chief Censor Board surreal Interview
YOU WANT TO DO SEX IN YOUR HOUSE WITH YOUR DOOR OPEN
You want to do sex in your house with your door open
By Anil Thakraney
If there's one thing a section of Bollywood badly wants, it's to censor out the Chairman of the CBFC (Central Board of Film Certification). Some of the firmans issued by the Board have been regressive, often outrageous. There is revolt brewing within, and there are allegations bossman Pahlaj Nihalani is a stooge of the current central government. Nihalani doesn't even try to conceal his affection for Modi, in fact, he's just put out a film that has some audiences in cinema halls make a beeline for the snack bar. Nihalani is a veteran movie producer, he's been making and distributing films for over four decades. Most of his films didn't really delight film critics, and he's so far lived a low profile life. But his tenure as the Censor Board chief has pushed him into the spotlight. Most of the comments one reads about his work aren't flattering. Here he is in an exclusive interview with Anil Thakraney bravely trying to defend the assorted controversies he's been embroiled in.
You want to make a film on the FTII students?
I am planning to. I am concerned about the students, because after all, these young people will come into the film industry. And the industry needs good people from the FTII. I want the students to focus on their work, and so my film won't be against the students. But what the students are doing today (the protests) is not good. My film will be based on FTII's working system, and the politics behind it.
They are very angry with you. You've called these students 'anti-national'.
I was misquoted. I called those people who are returning their awards as anti-government. And some of these students are being instigated by filmmakers who are anti-government.
How do you think you are suited for the job of the censor chief?
I don't know, they have always chosen a person from the film industry. I have been in this industry for 50 years. I write my films, I direct, I produce. So my work has given me the job. I have a personal experience of how movies get certified, I have served as a president of the industry body in the past.
And maybe because you are tough on vulgarity and obscenity?
I am not tough on anything, otherwise all films would have been rejected. Under my chairmanship, hardly any movie goes into the revising committee. We clear movies at the first step itself. We are more liberal than the previous board.
Then there is the issue of conflict of interest. As a film distributor, you can be biased when it comes to clearing movies.
Does that mean I stop doing my business because I have an honourary CBFC job? I don't watch the movie unless they come up to the revising committee. And people know I have a clean image and a tough working system. I will never make a film where there is conflict of interest.
What guidelines do you operate with for censoring films?
Times have changed, we now have the digital platform and social media. People want to project whatever is in their mind to the public. Look at the case of the James Bond film. They are making fun of it as 'Sanskaari Bond'. Someone put out a wrong story, social media picked it up and they have damaged the film and its producer. In the last two Bond films, they did not allow any intimate scenes. And we allowed them to show the kiss in Spectre. I accept that there should be a change in guidelines according to today's youth. However, to satisfy that, we have to change the ratings system completely. I recommend new categories: 12, 12+, 15, 15+, A, A+ and A++. That way even parents come to know exactly what kind of films their child is watching.
Wow, that's a long list. This will cause even more confusion, and many films which get A and above will lose revenues from television rights.
If they want to make such kind of movies, then they have to forget different revenues. If you are so confident of your work, why are you dependent on television revenue? At least they will fulfill their need for freedom of expression.
There is a contradiction in what you say. On one hand you say times are changing, and at the same time you want to introduce even more categories. I think the CBFC should become liberal in the internet age. People can watch hard porn at the click of a button.
That is not in my hands, I am nobody to change guidelines, that's up to the government. I have to follow rules and regulations that are in place. In any case we cannot allow people to do whatever they want.
But do you personally agree with me?
No, I don't. There has to be a Lakshman Rekha. Few thousand people on Twitter don't know what India is. India is a land where people put Gangajal on their face. Aap chahte ho aise desh mein sab free ho? Even if some producers decide to put their films only on the digital platform, the government will definitely introduce censorship.
Speaking of Spectre, surely Bond would kiss beautiful women he encounters, he isn't going to say Namaste to them.
So why didn't people object to the earlier Bond films? There was not a single kiss shown in Skyfall. That time no one thought of the sanskaari thing? We have passed the kiss! We only asked them to reduce the duration by 20 seconds.
I don't get this logic. A kiss is a kiss. Ten seconds or one minute.
(Gets angry). This means you want to do sex in your house with your door open. And show to people the way you are doing sex.
We are talking about a kiss, not mating.
(Gets more angry) You are asking the same question again and again. You have any further questions or not?
Let's talk about the list you put out earlier this year on banned cuss words, though you later withdrew it.
That was Ashoke Pandit (CBFC board member) spreading wrong information and creating panic in the industry.
You had signed that order.
That issue is over, the list has been withdrawn by the Board, it was an internal matter, it should never have gone to the public.
The reason I mention the list is I can understand to some extent that you have a problem with words like 'fuc***' and 'a**h**e'. But that list featured Bombay too as a no-no. Since when did Bombay become a vulgar word?
There is a guideline from the Maharashtra government. From 1995 the name has changed to Mumbai, you cannot use the old name anymore. We will not allow anyone to use Bombay in any film that's set in the period post 1995.
Sure, but that doesn't make it a bad word.
We have to follow policies of a state where the hub of Bollywood is located.
I suspect you were trying the please the Sena, BJP's ally.
You have a wrong perception.
Onto your new Modi film. The treatment is quite shoddy. You could have at least made it with a little finesse.
That is your feeling, your taste. (In a sarcastic tone.) You are a genius, I am not a genius. I have made the film with full conviction and quality. I have used the best people, best technicians.
Has Modi sent you a thank you note?
No. I sent him a note that I was doing this video. He was busy with his work, I did not get a response. I made the film with my own money, it's my love for the prime minister.
The film is on India, but you have used shots from foreign countries.
I am showing you the future of India in the film. How our smart cities will be like.
Then the song should have been 'Aisa mahaan hoga mera Bharat'.
Are you saying those people clapping in the cinema halls are fools? You have to understand cinema, don't go by a few people on Twitter. People are respecting it, like a national anthem.
Last question. In 1994 you made a film called Andaaz. I saw Anil Kapoor pulling his lungi, desperately trying to get Juhi Chawla into bed, as the song went, 'Khada hai, khada hai, khada hai.'
That movie was cleared by the censors. Then some politicians raised an objection and got the movie banners removed. The movie then went to the ministry, and they cleared it as well. Even then I offered to burn the negatives. Finally I removed the song from the film.
The point is, why would you even shoot such a vulgar song?
Don't ask me, it's my freedom of expression. And why aren't you talking about my other films?