Following the outcry against Pahlaj Nihalani’s list of banned words in films issued on Friday, which includes a long list of expletives, Nihalani spoke out to explain why the list (which includes 13 English and 15 Hindi words) had to be sent out, and to whom.
Baffled by the protests Nihalani says, “Firstly, I don’t know how the list came out in the public domain. We didn’t send out the list to the media or even to members of the censor board. Therefore one board member(Ashoke Pandit)’s hue and cry that he wasn’t consulted about the list is not only invalid, it is also unethical.”
The Chairperson says the list of words not to be used in films, was prepared and sent as per the guidelines of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting to film producers. “It is meant to provide a safety platform to film producers. These are words that are banned as per the guidelines provided by the I & B ministry. I didn’t prepare the list on my own and send it out. So it wasn’t the ‘Chairperson who prepared the list’, as reported. These are words on which there is a blanket-ban from long before I came in. So why this hue and cry over them? And again I repeat, the list is not prepared by me.”
How does Nihalani explain the constant use of abusive terms and cuss words in films by Anurag Kashyap and Vishal Bhardwaj?
Protests the Chairperson, “I can’t be held accountable for what happened before me in the censor board. I am repeatedly asked about the word ‘Bombay’ being changed in a song. Firstly, that change happened before my tenure. Secondly, it’s not the censor board but the Maharashtra government which has ordered that ‘Bombay’ no longer be used in any public platform. If filmmakers don’t want to read the writing on the wall, it’s not my fault.”
Nihalani is very clear on his protocol and professional duties as the CBFC chief. “ My job is to implement guidelines, not formulate them. If filmmakers want changes in the censorial policy they should approach the I & B ministry directly. I’d be most happy to follow any alterations in the rules. But until then the abusive words remain banned. If an actress is playing a prostitute she doesn’t have to use profanities. Sharmila Tagoreji played a prostitute in Gulzar Saab’s Mausam. She didn’t use even one cuss word and won the National award for best actress for her performance.”
Regarding the use of ‘Bombay’ in the film Wake Up Sid, Nihalani says, “I wasn’t there when the word was allowed. And people forget, the word ‘Bombay’ had to be deleted from Wake Up Sid and producer Karan Johar had to apologize for the same.”
Without naming Ashoke Pandit, Nihalani condemns the filmmaker and censor board member for going public against the list of banned abusive words. “This censorboard member was till recently crying himself hoarse over the alleged vulgarity in the AIB (All India Back..d) event. Now he’s defending the use of the same words in our films. It’s very confusing which side he’s protesting from. Also, he has no authority to speak out in public in his capacity of the CBFC board-member. We’ve an official spokesperson Mr Shravan Kumar(the CBFC’s CEO) who is authorized to speak on behalf of the CBFC. Unfortunately this gentleman(Ashoke Pandit) has taken on himself to speak for the censor board when he isn’t authorized to.”
Nihalani says his job is to make the process of censorship as easy as possible for film producers. “I’m a producer myself. I’ve two films on the floors right now. I understand what the producers go through to release their films. If they have clear guidelines spelt out to them their lives and our job becomes much easier.”
With the list of taboo words going out to producers Nihalani hopes that producers would come with their films without the banned words. “I repeat, we want to provide a safety platform for producers. Keeping this in mind the CBFC has now facilitated the direct censoring of film posters. Producers can now submit their posters directly to us instead of going through film federations, a process that the producers have often called tedious and unfriendly.”