Before he was sacked as chairperson of the Central Board of Film Certification on August 11, Pahlaj Nihalani hit the headlines regularly for his arbitrary, often bizarre diktats. Nihalani believed he was leading a moral crusade to cleanse Indian cinema of its tendency towards vulgarity. He declared that actors should not drink or smoke on the screen, trimmed kissing scenes in James Bond’s Spectre and denied a certificate to Alankrita Srivastava’s Lipstick Under My Burkha because it was a “lady oriented” film. When he was removed six months before his three-year term was due to end, he declared that he was proud to have taken “a firm stand against vulgarity and pseudo-liberalism”.
On Monday, Nihalani was back in the news – because of an advertisement. The front page of Mumbai’s Mid-Day newspaper featured the image a bikini-clad young woman sunbathing with the tagline “Bold...Beautiful...Blessed”. It added that the film, Julie 2, was presented by Nihalani, though it didn’t specify what exactly was involved. The titillating image seemed to be exactly the kind of thing that Nihalani had wielded his censor’s scissors against only last month.
Julie 2 stars Raai Laxmi in the lead role.
The film’s predecessor, Julie, revolved around the eponymous character, played by Neha Dhupia, who travels to Mumbai from Goa for brighter prospects but becomes a prostitute. The low-budget film became a sleeper hit thanks to its sexual scenes.
The divergence between the message of the ad and Nihalani’s moral crusade only weeks ago did not go unnoticed by Twitter users. Here’s a sample of the criticism that bubbled up.
Before Pahlaj Nihalani became the Central Board of Film Certification chairperson on January 19, 2015, he had been a producer and distributor of films for the most part of his career. Some of his most famous productions including David Dhawan’s Shola Aur Shabnam (1992), Aankhen (1993), and Andaz (1994) whose sexually suggestive songs Khada Hai and Ye Maal Gaadi seemed to be at odds with the righteous Indian values he espoused as chief censor.