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Pahlaj Nihalani defends CBFC decision to return Bhansali’s Padmavati on “incomplete application” grounds

By Manishaa R

Amidst questions being raised about the Censor Board’s decision to return Padmavati citing Sanjay Bhansali’s censorship application as “incomplete”, former CBFC chief, Pahlaj Nihalani has defended Prasoon Joshi’s decision asking for its fresh resubmission, “I don’t understand why a big hue and cry is being made about the decision. From what I understand, Mr Bhansali may not have furnished all the requisite details in his censorship application and the entry must be incomplete. This formality applies to all producers who submit their films for censorship,” Nihalani said, ruling out that the CBFC was under pressure to defer the film’s release.

According to confidential sources, Bhansali had been asked to categorize his film whether it was a “work of fiction” or a “true representation of history”, after which the CBFC would take a stance on the film and view it accordingly. Apparently in the wake of mounting protests, the filmmaker had also been asked to put a disclaimer in place if he wanted to project his film as a “work of fiction”.  However Nihalani said it was mandatory for every filmmaker to categorise his film in his application, “The rules are applicable to every filmmaker. As a matter of fact producers are required to clarify whether their films are based on true facts or mere works of fiction. A filmmaker cannot distort facts if he says it is a historical or true representation. On the other hand when a filmmaker claims his producer sends his film as a work of fiction, he has the liberty to show anything in the film and the CBFC views it accordingly. This should be clearly stated in the application. Alternately he has to give a disclaimer in the beginning, after which the film is viewed from a different perspective,” Nihalani said.

“I don’t understand why a big hue and cry is being made about the decision. From what I understand, Mr Bhansali may not have furnished all the requisite details in his censorship application and the entry must be incomplete”- Pahlaj Nihalani, former CBFC chief

The former CBFC chief, who had also come under attack several times for the delay in the process of censorship, said that Bhansali should not have announced the release date of the film before getting censorship clearance, “The rules state that filmmakers cannot announce the release dates of their film unless the certification process is completed. This is strictly followed in the south but filmmakers here have been violating it for a long time, which is their mistake,” he said, adding that the CBFC was not obliged to clear Bhansali’s or any other film on a priority basis, “Ideally Bhansali should have submitted his film for censorship well in advance knowing that the CBFC is entitled to take upto 68 days for certification, depending on the rush for censorship. Giving priority to one filmmaker means doing injustice to others whose films are also in the queue. This rule has been in existence since the past 40 years and producers are well aware of it. Also it happens that when producers do not have the time, they end up showing the unedited film to CBFC, which they should not,” Nihalani added.

“It is surprising that the CBFC has not seen the film on a priority basis despite so much tension. The whole world was against former CBFC head Pahlaj Nihalani but at least he used to report to the CBFC from 11 a.m to 5 p.m”- Former President of Film Federation of India

Meanwhile doubts continue to be raised about the CBFC’s decision. Noted writer and industry veteran J.P. Choksey said, “It is surprising that the CBFC has not seen the film on a priority basis despite so much tension. The whole world was against former CBFC head Pahlaj Nihalani but at least he used to report to the CBFC from 11 a.m to 5 p.m. Ideally censorship should be the first priority in such cases.”  On the other hand, veteran actress and social activist, Shabana Azmi, took to Twitter and asked whether the CBFC decision had anything to do with “electoral gains”.  #Padmavatis application to CBFC has been sent back bcoz of incomplete formalities! Really? OR to keep fires stoked for electoral gains?”  she tweeted.