Pahlaj Nihalani Accuses Smriti Irani For Putting Pressure On Him And Booting Him Out

Former chief of Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) Pahlaj Nihalani has alleged Information and Broadcasting Minister Smriti Irani put undue pressure on him when he was in office and targeted him. In an interview to Lehren TV, Pahlaj said, “At the I&B Ministry, I was their target number one. It all started when I didn’t clear Madhur Bhandarkar’s Indu Sarkar. She gave me a call asking why I hadn’t done so. I said, I was following guidelines and now the film is already with the Tribunal. I told her if she wants she can get it cleared from the Tribunal. I wasn’t massaging her ego and it was only a matter of time before I was thrown out,” he said.

Pahlaj was removed and lyricist-poet Prasoon Joshi appointed CBFC chief last Friday when the government announced a major rehaul of the CBFC. The new board of members includes actors Vidya Balan and Narendra Kohli, among others.

One of the earliest films that brought Pahlaj’s infamous scissors under the scanner was Shahid Kapoor-starrer Udta Punjab. The former CBFC chief has blamed the government for all the controversy around the film that also starred Alia Bhatt, Kareena Kapoor and Diljit Dosanjh.

““There was pressure from every side to not clear the film. I cannot tell you how much pressure I was under. Despite that, I cleared the film albeit with cuts (there were over 70 cuts until the Bombay High Court allowed the film’s release with a single one),” he told the channel.

“There was a letter from the Home Ministry to not clear Kabir Khan’s Bajrangi Bhaijaan as it was releasing on Eid and they feared that it could lead to communal problems. I knew the story. It wasn’t what they feared. There was miscommunication. I stood by the makers. Yet I was made out to be the villain. Such is the industry,” he added.

“I don’t remember the name of Bajrangi Bhaijaan director (Kabir Khan) because he is useless. If you cannot give a good film with Salman Khan, what is the use of making films,” he asked angrily.

“Anurag Kashyap has always fought with the CBFC recommended cuts. He has always managed and manipulated the board. Gangs of Wasseypur had all the cuss words. He has always created controversy around small films. He had no issues with Bombay Velvet because it had big stars,” he added.

You can watch the entire interview here:

Talking about his own tenure at CBFC, Pahlaj told The Week, “We reduced the fees [for producers] by about Rs 20,000. Before I joined, the burden of the expenses incurred during the preview for certification was entirely on the producers. I got that removed. We also have a broker-free CBFC. The middleman was fooling a lot of producers by charging a lot of money. We contained that completely. Now, the producer only has to pay the amount needed for certification—Rs 22,000 to Rs 36,000—depending on the length of the film. It is more like a corporate office now.”

“We have certified 82 per cent films without any cuts. Even when it is not just a certification body, we have been giving certificates under the three categories—U, U/A and A. It is a misconception of the producers, created by the government, which told them that it is a certification body when the entire controversy began. It is a confused body. And it created a problem for me. They [producers] started thinking I am enforcing arbitrary and Hitler-like attitude by making unnecessary cuts. It is a complete lie. They have been blaming me through the media and through board members.... I have been blamed for micromanaging, looking after all the certificates, which means I was watching all the movies. Truth is, I have been acting as per the guidelines. As chairperson, I am not allowed to constitute an examining committee, I can’t suggest a member, and I can’t even see the film,” he added.