Mumbai: Pahlaj Nihalani, who turned the censor board into a precinct of serial controversy, has been sacked as the organisation's chairman. His successor is famous lyricist-adman Prasoon Joshi, while actor Vidya Balan joins the board.
- Filmmakers had accused Pahlaj Nihalani of moral policing, irrational cuts
- His colleagues accused him of treating CBFC as his personal fiefdom
- Pahlaj Nihalani's successor Prasoon Joshi is a famous lyricist
Colleagues of Mr Nihalani had accused him of treating the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) like his personal fiefdom, while filmmakers and critics accused him of demanding irrational cuts and moral policing.
Recent scandals involved a demand for multiple cuts in Madhur Bhandarkar's "Indu Sarkar" which depicts the Emergency and his refusal to certify "Lipstick Under My Burkha" which explores female sexuality. A CBFC member had described it as "lady-oriented", complaining of sexual scenes, abusive words, audio pornography (phone sex) and implied the film might offend Muslims.
Director Alankrita Shrivastava won her case after challenging the censor board at an appeals tribunal.
Pahlaj Nihalani was appointed to head the board in January 2015 and was entangled in controversy right through his tenure. He had recently objected to the word "intercourse" in the Shah Rukh Khan film When Harry Met Sejal, and was also sharply criticised for his decision to bleep words like "cow" and "Hindu India" in a documentary on economist and Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen.
Last year, Mr Nihalani's board had 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. The high court restored all references save one and advised the board "not kill creativity".
Mr Nihalani was reportedly informed last month by the Ministry of information and broadcasting that he could be replaced. His three-year tenure was to have ended in January.
Prasoon Joshi, who won the Padma Shri in 2015, is one of the film industry's leading lyricists and screenwriters. The noted adman-lyricist has twice won the National Award For Best Lyrics for 'Maa' in Taare Zameen Par (2008) and 'Bolo Na' in Chittagong (2013).
The 45-year-old had written the lyrics for Prime Minister Narendra Modi's anthem for the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan and also has films like Rang De Basanti and Neerja in his repertoire.