Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore made me look like sanskaari villain: Pahlaj Nihalani

Pahlaj Nihalani is an angry man. His ouster from the chairmanship of the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) did not hurt him as much as the gleeful celebration that followed his departure. Here is the former censor chief, uncensored, in a no-holds-barred interview.

How does it feel to be out of power?

I was never power-hungry. Anurag Kashyap said once that I derived pleasure from humiliating filmmakers who came to the CBFC to get their movies certified. That I’d make them stand for hours as I lectured them. Would Kashyap like to prove what he said? Or does he think he can scare me through the bullying tactics that he is well-known for?

I can’t answer for Mr Kashyap. But, apparently, his films are highly regarded.

Oh, really? Is that why no major actor wants to work with him? Do you know how much money his films have lost? The number runs in multiple crores. And still he continues to behave as if he is the spokesperson of all the disgruntled elements in the film industry. He should concentrate on his own problems, not the ones that he claims filmmakers had while dealing with me when I was the CBFC chairperson.

He isn’t the only one. Many other filmmakers have spoken about your high-handedness.

Who are these filmmakers? Hansal Mehta? Mukesh Bhatt? Prakash Jha? Mukesh Bhatt? Ekta Kapoor? Tell me, which film of theirs has been a success? Ekta Kapoor spent many years spreading twisted perverse values through Indian soaps. Now she is doing the same on the web. Some people never change, and they now want rational elements in society to also become degenerate.

Still, wasn’t your job to certify films instead of cutting them?

Who told you that? Please show me one smattering of a directive from the government stating that I was supposed to only certify and not cut. That’s a completely wrong perception. The very reason for the existence of the censor board is to make changes, modify and cut when necessary. This was the instruction given to me. And yet, when I did my job, I was labelled a sanskaari censor chief, an arrogant, high-handed autocratic scissors-happy madman.

Does it hurt that no spokesperson of the BJP came forward to defend you?

Neither of the two ministers of information and broadcasting – Shri Arun Jaitley or Shri Venkaiah Naidu – ever made their displeasure evident to me. I was given to understand that I was going about it the right way. Even Rajyavardhan Rathore (the minister of state for information and broadcasting) approved of my way of working. And yet, he would project a completely different image when he met stars and filmmakers. He made me look like the sanskaari villain.

Were your own board members against you?

Two of them – Ashok Pandit and Chandraprakash Diwedi – campaigned relentlessly against the CBFC’s interests. I repeatedly complained to the information and broadcasting ministry about them, but no action was taken. It seems they (the ministry) wanted their cuts while projecting a liberal image at the same time.

Are you unhappy about losing the CBFC chairmanship?

Not at all. I did my best. And now my successor, Prasoon Joshi, is already being criticised by the same people who relentlessly pursued and hounded me out of the job. The poor chap hasn’t even started yet. Let me warn him. He has an uphill task ahead.