As the political undertone of the newly constituted Censor Board of Film Certification (CBFC) was apparent on Tuesday, there are serious concerns among artists in the film industry that the ideological ‘homogeneity’ of the current crop of members could undermine freedom of expression.
They pointed out that the new chairman of the regulatory body Pahlaj Nihalani, a day after assuming position, unabashedly lavished praises on Prime Minister Narendra Modi while openly flaunting his association with the BJP.
Describing Mr. Modi as a visionary who believes in action, Mr. Nihalani said the PM was his “action hero.” “What's wrong in it? I’m proud to say I’m a BJP person. I believe in Mr. Modi and his leadership,” Mr. Nihalani responded to the allegations that the new board had a definitive BJP slant.
A member of the BJP film cell, then headed by BJP leader Kirit Somaiya when the Vajpayee government was in power, Mr. Nihalani, however, said he would strictly enforce the guidelines of the board and would work in a fair and transparent manner. Training his guns on the outgoing chairman Leela Samson for “unnecessarily creating a controversy” over her resignation last week, Mr. Nihalani said Ms. Samson cried injustice at the end of her tenure but barely took any initiative to improve the functioning of the board.
It is a well known trend that successive governments pack the regulatory board with members considered sympathetic to it. However, critics have raised serious concerns over the political affiliations of the new CBFC members saying their ‘political homogeneity’ could lead to conservatism in line with the ideology of the RSS.
Most of the nominated members of the new board are either direct members of the BJP, open sympathisers or considered ideologically close to the RSS. Mr. Nihalani is himself credited with the ‘ Har Ghar Modi ’ song in praise of Mr. Modi during the election campaign. Noted film critic Ajay Brahmatmaj said: “Any film that is perceived to be anti-BJP or anti-Hindu Rashtra or anti-nationalist could be censored. The party that stresses a ban on women wearing jeans and pubs on moral grounds may have the ideological inclination to be conservative.” A former member of the board, speaking to The Hindu on the condition of anonymity, said: “Some of the members are not just associated with the party but are RSS ideologues. There are strong fears that it might lead to ideological conservatism.” The newly formed body was hotly debated on the social media with filmmakers, academicians and opposition leaders questioning the government’s move and suggested that the new members were ‘rewarded’ for their support to Mr. Modi. Responding to these allegations, Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore, junior Minister in the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, defended his government’s decision saying though a few names were linked with the BJP, the idea was to select people from all fields.
Lyricist Javed Akhtar questioned the alarmist approach and said it was too early to blow the whistle. “There is not a major change. As it is, nothing drastically shocking ever happens in the industry. The board takes decisions keeping in mind the lowest common denominator. Let’s wait and watch,” he told The Hindu .
Article was corrected for a factual error.