So Pahlaj Nihalani is sacked from the head-post of CBFC, the Censor Board for Films in India. This news was met with unanimous cheers and acclaim by everyone from India on the social media! Not to forget the fact that #PahlajNihalani was the leading trending topic on twitter in India when the news of his ouster broke out.
Recently, Censor Board was under much scrutiny for multiple controversial decisions, termed by most as regressive. The ban on Udta Punjab followed by the recent denial of awarding ‘Lipstick under my Burkha’ a Censor certificate were more than enough to create a stir nationwide. But is Nihalani the only one responsible for these decisions?! Well, he is not.
It is important for all to know how exactly the CBFC, which is the Central Board of Film Certification, actually works. The CBFC consists of various members from different walks of life. Nominated mainly through the central government, these include veteran journalists, lawyers, even doctors! For every screening, many of these members are called via phone and depending on their availability for the screening time, 5 of them are randomly chosen to censor the films. These people DON’T know which movie will be shown, which means it’s a blinded process. Also, 2 of the 5 members have to be females.
Depending on these 5 people, the movie is awarded censorship certificates. The recent bans were awarded by these 5 members who watched the movies and NOT Pahlaj Nihalani! He probably didn’t even watch these movies, till they were re-applied for a certificate, or maybe not even then!
So how do the members decide what to ban and what not to? Well, there is an SOP (Standard Operating Procedure) book which needs to be read by all members and followed. It is updated over a year or two and the new central government did that when they came into power. According to some new rules, abuses on mother and sister are completely banned even if the film is awarded an ‘A’ certificate (Thank God Gangs Of Wasseypur was released then and not now). Again, the chief of the CBFC has to just see that these changes are applied properly, he actually has NO say in making these SOPs.
Definitely Pahlaj Nihalani is the chief so he has some powers. He can definitely recommend some changes in the SOP or recommend some knowledgeable plus open-minded members from the film fraternity itself. Reportedly Nihalani did recommend some changes on the line of the changes sorted by veteran director Shyam Benegal, but the Information and Broadcast ministry did not pay much heed to them. One good thing he has done is that he has completely negated the corruption or the subtle perks involved in the CBFC. In fact now the members don’t even get the meals which they used to get previously while watching films. I think this was not written about before by the media.
Definitely Pahlaj may be responsible for not bringing about changes as a chief, but people should know the Central Ministry is the one who commands the censorship and not the CBFC. The I & B ministry should also be held responsible for these regressive decisions by the CBFC and not only one person who may not have to power to bring changes! I hope Prasoon Joshi does act to his rights and powers and makes the film censorship in India unbiased and progressive. It is upto the new man in-charge to not only recommend changes but see to it that they come into action cause in the end. the ball is in the court of the I & B ministry.