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Sunday Interview: ‘Straight movies will get certification’

DC | ROHINI NAIR
Published Feb 8, 2015, 12:20 pm IST
Updated Mar 29, 2019, 8:50 pm IST
There should be no question of 'yeh film main kyu pass hua, yeh film main kyu nahi?'
Pahlaj Nihalani (Photo: Debasish Dey)
 Pahlaj Nihalani (Photo: Debasish Dey)

You stepped into the role of the Censor Board chief at a controversial juncture: First, there were mass resignations led by Leela Samson, then there was the deletion of the word “Bombay” from Mihir Joshi’s song, followed by the backlash to the AIB Knockout and CBFC member Ashoke Pandit’s remarks on the same

I think (Ms Samson) did not give too much time (to the CBFC) and didn’t hold as many workshops as were needed. The problem is that sometimes you depend on your panel members who may not have been updated regarding changes in the CBFC guidelines or instructions pertaining to new areas. You have to have workshops that will keep all panel members updated on what the policy changes are going to be. That has not happened. But I’m not here to criticise. I am trying to do my duties religiously. I will see that the government-imposed guidelines for the film industry are imposed.

 

As for the decision regarding Mihir Joshi’s song, I think the previous board made the right cut. Mumbai is not Bombay any more, the name was changed in 1995. It was the government’s decision to change the name of this city; this is the commercial capital of the country, the home of Bollywood, the main office of the CBFC is here. If we do not follow things correctly, then how will other offices follow the right guidelines? Ms Samson took the right decision.

Mr Pandit’s remarks regarding the AIB Knockout were made in a personal capacity. Only CBFC CEO, Shravan Kumar, is authorised to comment on any issues pertaining to the board.

When the AIB controversy broke out, you said the show didn’t fall in the CBFC’s purview, but that you would be filing a report on it for the information and broadcasting ministry

The show happened at National Sports Club of India, tickets were sold for about Rs 4,000. Now, were the proceeds for charitable purposes, did they have requisite permissions from the police, the licences pertaining to entertainment tax — all these rules have to be checked. We don’t come into that. But it has become a big issue, especially because content was uploaded on YouTube without any censorship. Even film trailers and film-related material is being uploaded on YouTube without censoring. It is the government’s (role) to check social media, people should not be offended by such material. We have given our report.

You’ve talked about an umbrella (censorship) policy for films, TV and uploaded content. How feasible is that?

If you want to regularise something, you can. The government needs to have a discussion with the YouTube people There needs to be a communication between the two on what you can upload The YouTube team can remove content that is deemed offensive. You can say that this content is only for people who are above 18 years of age, but who checks if the person accessing it is really 18 or not? The mobile phone is so powerful today. Kids are accessing all kinds of content over it. We really need to look into that.

At a time when all kind of material is available online, does censoring films accomplish anything?

See, the social media, the Internet is not in our control. The Censor Board is fulfilling its duties based on the guidelines that we’ve been given with regard to films only.

The impression in the film industry is that you’re going to be very strict about not allowing obscenity, vulgarity in moves.

There is no question of being strict or lenient. There should be no question of “yeh film main kyun pass hua, yeh film main kyun nahi?” There should be uniformity.

What about the context? What if a film is a realistic depiction of the Maha-bharat or if it is about the underworld? It would be extremely violent

My answer is simply this: I will always follow the guidelines. There are very intelligent writers in our industry and they know the rules. Sometimes they deliberately add masala which is deemed objectionable, then they blame the Censor Board. Why grumble later? If they make straight movies, they have a right to get the certificate. There are many movies which do not show anything objectionable, but still have so much impact. A filmmaker like Yash Chopra could make powerful dramas like Deewar, Trishul.

Where do you see the vulgarity? Sholay was a dacoit film. In those days, it was difficult to clear dacoit films, but where is the vulgarity? Hum Aapke Hain Kaun, Koi Mil Gaya — superhit films. Where is the vulgarity? See Shah Rukh Khan’s films, they’re all successful. Where is the vulgarity? It is only filmmakers who have no confidence in their movies who do this, thereby wronging society and themselves.

Every filmmaker also has a social responsibility in conveying his/her message because film is a strong medium. For instance, in Ek Duuje Ke Liye, the suicide of the lead couple prompted so many copycat suicides. Why do you need a disclaimer saying, “Do not try this” at the start of an Akshay Kumar commercial in which he performs stunts? Because people were copying him. People do follow actors, so actors have a responsibility to do the right thing.

But if we have ratings that say certain content can only be viewed by people over the age of 18, why do we need additional censoring? Some might call it moral policing.

It’s not as straightforward as “itna gaali tha toh it’s an adult movie”. Violence or abuse are not the only things to consider. We look at themes. There are themes that you classify as adult ones. Today we are talking about the AIB show and some have said, let people decide what they want to watch. You say, if it’s not your cup of tea, don’t drink it (referring to director Karan Johar’s tweet about the backlash). Arre, tum zabardasti muft mein chai pilaoge toh koi bhi pee lega! Here, when a film ticket sells for Rs 100 with tax, people don’t buy it. Cut the tax and sell it for Rs 50 and you’ll have housefull. When there’s a sale at a shop, you’re immediately attracted. That’s our mindset.

Why not self-regulate?

Whoever wants self-regulation should discuss it with the government. Let the government allow that.  (Referring again to AIB Knockout) We’ve seen how much our filmmakers and actors self-regulate.

You quit as the president of the Association of Motion Pictures and TV Programme Producers, citing too much politicisation. Now the same thing is being said of the CBFC — that the Bharatiya Janata Party is placing its supporters here.

See, wherever I am, I will definitely try to keep my own people. Why should I take someone from another group? If you see members from any community in any profession, they always want to work with someone from their own community. Whatever government is in power will always want their people to work for them. I do want representations for all segments of society.

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