The Centre on Friday decided to unceremoniously sack Pahlaj Nihalani, the controversial chairperson of the Censor Board of Film Certification five months before his term is scheduled to end. Mr Nihalani, who was made CBFC chief after his now famous pre-election slogan “Har-har Modi, Ghar-Ghar Modi” was replaced by lyricist, poet and adman Prasoon Joshi.
Sources in the I&B ministry revealed that with the complaints and the rising clamour against Mr Nihalani, the ministry asked him to quit before his term ended.
Mr Nihalani, who led the censor board from one controversy to another was appointed to head the board in January 2015. An official statement by the I&B ministry on Friday said that Mr Joshi had been appointed as the chairperson of the CBFC for a period of three years under the Cinematograph Act.
Along with Mr Nihalani, the ministry also reconstituted the CBFC board on Friday. The new members in the board now include actor Vidya Balan, theatre artiste Waman Kendre, film director Vivek Agnihotri and author Narendra Kohli, actress Gautami Tadimalla, BJP leader and theatre actor Vani Tripati Tikoo, conductor of Shillong Chamber Choir Neil Herbert Nongkynrih, filmmaker Naresh Chandra Lal, Kannada film director T.S. Nagabharana, Dalit social activist and author Ramesh Patange, actor Jeevitha Rajasekhar and screenwriter Mihir Bhuta.
Besides his running feud with the film fraternity over his dubious decisions to clip scenes, dialogues, he made headlines for a propganda video dedicated to the Prime Minister called “Mera desh hai mahaan, mera desh hai jawaan”. It was alleged that most of the achievements shown during the course of the video didn’t have anything to do with India. Recently, Mr Nihalani had refused to certify the acclaimed film Lipstick Under My Burqa. The film fraternity had accused him of demanding irrational cuts and moral policing. He had recently objected to the word “intercourse” in Shah Rukh Khan starrer When Harry Met Sejal. He had also come under criticism for his decision to beep words like “cow” and “Hindu India” in a documentary on economist and Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen.
There had apparently been major pressure on the government to remove Mr Nihalani, who had once openly declared, “I am proud to be a Modi chamcha.”
Rumours for his removal had begun gather momentum when he ordered 89 cuts and told producers to remove all references to Punjab, elections and political parties in Udta Punjab, a film on the state’s drug problem. Virtually all of Bollywood had joined hands to oppose the cuts.