The Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) may have changed heads, but the controversies surrounding the body have not stopped since Prasoon Joshi took over as chairman. The clamour against Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Padmavati is still as loud as ever. Arjun Gupta, a BJP leader and one of the advisory panel members came out strongly against Bhansali and said that he should be tried for treason and action be taken for him to stop making “such movies.”
According to reports, the movie has just gone in for screening at the CBFC. As such, for a member of the board to speak up in this manner and make a derogatory and inflammatory comment on a public forum, goes against the rules of the very certification body he represents.
And this is just what former chairman, Pahlaj Nihalani points out. “Arjun Gupta is just a member of the panel and hence he has no right to comment on something like this publicly on behalf of the CBFC. It goes against the rules but that’s expected from such a person. In fact, I had even suspended him for his unruly behaviour when I was the chairman of the board,” he decries.
While Pahlaj has hit back at his former colleague, Arjun’s fellow CBFC member Ashoke Pandit goes a step further to state that politics and film certification should be exclusive of one another. “If one has a political agenda, then it clouds his or her judgement. So, it’s best to just keep people from the political field away from the certification process. If Arjun was simply a man chosen on the basis of his calibre, then he would not have let his political leanings get in the way of his comments,” he asserts.
Director Karan Anshuman concurs. The Inside Edge creator goes on to add that despite the changes in the head, the board has not given filmmakers the kind of freedom they would like. “Even after Prasoon coming in, I think there is scope for more change. Filmmakers were hoping for a lot more freedom. The only person I see who has benefited has been Pahlaj Nihlani who has released Julie 2. Not sure if it has really worked out for us yet,” says the disappointed filmmaker.
Director Saket Chaudhury, who helmed Hindi Medium and Shaadi Ke Side Effects, says that it was probably naïve of the film industry to expect changes simply because the head of the body has changed. “Changing the head of the censor board is just decorative. As far as the freedom of expression is concerned, we really need to follow the constitution. The only people who have freedom of expression in this country are the ones who are there to curb the expression of others. And nothing has changed even after Prasoon, it is all a hogwash,” he snaps.
Ashoke, on the other hand remains hopeful. “There is a lot of difference between Prasoon and Pahlaj. Prasoon is a person of talent, someone who has an understanding of the media. With Prasoon at the top, I am positive that things will move in right direction,” he says.
As for the film itself, even a political figure like Shaina NC is willing to give Padmavati the benefit of doubt. “I understand that there is a huge sentiment attached to Padmavati in terms of being a periodic drama, but you can echo your sentiment by going to the court of law only once you have seen the film. But first, we need to know whether it is historical or fiction. And let the certification board do what it is best at, which is giving certification, and even then if someone has an objection you can go to court,” she bargains.
Despite not being a part of the CBFC anymore, Pahlaj also believes that its decision, whatever it is, should be respected. “Wait for the final verdict for the film to come out and then give it the respect it’s due. Otherwise, what’s the point of even having the body? It can just shut shop and we can have a Hindu, Muslim, Sikh and Christian bodies and if anything offends any sentiments of any religion, cull it out. And, if that’s the case, no more movies will be made at all,” he shrugs.