Udta Punjab:Where is Information and Broadcasting Minister Arun Jaitley?
NEW DELHI: “Yes I am a chamcha of Prime Minister Narendra Modi” declared a defiant Censor Board chief Pahlaj Nihalani. And with it placed himself on a level that has completely silenced all BJP leaders including the normally vocal Information and Broadcasting Minister Arun Jaitley on the Udta Punjab controversy.
Nihalani has stood firm in support of the 94 cuts imposed by the Censor Board on the movie, that includes the deletion of all references to Punjab, and even to the cities in the state. A movie on the rampant problem of drugs in Punjab, this was objected to be the BJP ally Akali Dal when the film was being shot, and it seems to have been left to Nihalani to do the rest now that it is ready for release.
His passionate loyalty for PM Modi has silenced Minister Jaitley who, despite the controversy that has taken over Bollywood, admitted in a television appearance, “I have not seen the film.” Asked then about the general issue of censorship, Jaitley played it safe by restricting himself to short, vague remarks about effecting a change in CBFC guidelines soon. “"You will probably have a system where you will have to have a certificate. The correct word is certification and not censorship. Certification norms will have to be liberal….There is a well documented report by Shyam Benegal. The first part has come to me and is under consideration. Over the next few days we are going to announce some very radical changes in that," he said.
Jaitley in a gentle reference to the current controversy merely said, "I think that we are overstating it because at the end of the day you have a Board which takes a view which may be a little conservative view but then at the appeal tribunal with an appeal it can get disposed off," he added.
In fact as Kashyap said a couple of days ago, he had been trying to speak with Minister Jaitley, had called him any number of times but his calls went unanswered.
Nihalani has had no such compunctions, and with the confidence of a loyalist he has taken on almost the entire film industry in India. This despite the fact that BJP supporter Anupam Kher has come out against the censorship of the movie, and even the conservatively cautious Amitabh Bachchan has also questioned the cuts.
Nihalani is seeking refuge in the larger politics through which the government has decided to control art and culture. The Censor Board chief’s comments smacked of politics---and certainly not art---as he asserted his loyalty to PM Modi, insisted(wrongly) that Udta Punjab has been funded by the Aam Aadmi party and refused to retract this erroneous claim, and attacked Congress President Sonia Gandhi in what can only be described as a tasteless comment from the chief of India’s Censor Board. "Yes, I am a chamcha of Narendra Modi as Anurag Kashyap said. I am proud to be, a Modi Chamcha (acolyte). Should I be a chamcha of the Italian Prime Minister instead?" Nihalani said.
The demand for Nihalani’s removal is gaining ground. However, the response from the Minister and the silence from the others clearly demonstrates that no such change will be made. And Kashyap can hope for relief from the courts that are currently hearing the issue as the Modi government has made it very apparent that it will not bow to public demand to change its appointments, or its decisions, particularly in the field of education and culture.
The Chairman of the Film and Television Institute of India, Pune Gajendra Chauhan remains in place despite the long agitation of the students. He had joined the BJP in 2004 and was its national convenor for culture. His appointment had divided the film community with Rishi Kapoor, Kiran Rao, Amol Palekar, Salman Khan, Anand Patwardhan and others supporting the students in the demand for his removal. He was not seen as qualified to run the Institute, but continues in position till date.
Similarly Nihalani has had many a rub with Bollywood since his appointment. He has endeared himself to the Prime Minister by making a video on him, and has always professed his loyalty during a crisis. Not many think he will go, but clearly Jaitley---after clearance from PM Modi---will have to come out of purdah on this issue if the courts, of course, do not intervene before. Bollywood is looking for redressal, and this time around the Censor Board chief might find it difficult to brazen it out. At least not without some wings being trimmed.