India’s chief of the Censor Board has had trouble proving his mettle in pretty much every department, except exhibiting sense of humour.
It’s another thing that he doesn’t know he has it. Pahlaj Nihalani’s statements justifying the proposed ‘cuts’ in films applying for certification have managed to invoke more humour than all the slapstick comedy films he made in the 80s, taken together.
From declaring that a film on homosexuality will “ignite unnatural passion” to reducing the length of James Bond’s onscreen kisses, saying “a kiss THAT long can lead to lust”, Nihalani has more or less covered the entire ground when it comes to absurdity. His most recent remarks in an interview, however, where he threatens to resign if the charges of favoritism towards big production houses are proved against him, are not a matter of joke. Because in the same breath, the chairman of the censor board, an autonomous body, also reveals that it is regular practice for influential producers to approach the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, and have them (he doesn’t name anyone) call him to clear a big-budget film out of turn.
As it goes in India, it’s hardly a surprise that lobbying, and putting pressure through the government helps influential producers get their ads, trailers and films certified ahead of turn. What’s surprising, rather alarming, however, is the casualness with which Nihalani mentions it.