'I hope I am remembered as the CBFC chairperson who took a firm stand against vulgarity and pseudo-liberalism, no matter how unpopular it made me,' Pahlaj Nihalani tells Subhash K Jha.
Pahlaj Nihalani is no longer the chairperson of the Central Board Of Film Certification.
I find him in a surprisingly relaxed frame of mind a few hours after the news of his ouster went viral.
Says the outgoing CBFC chairperson, perhaps the most controversial chairperson ever, "I had been preparing myself for my exit for months now. Actually, from the time I came in there have been elements working against me, some of them from within the CBFC."
"These elements -- I am not going to name them on record -- are currently celebrating a premature Diwali. Unnka toh tyohaar mere jaane se ho gaya (they are in a festive mood because of my ouster)."
Any regrets about his departure?
"None at all. Believe me, I was brought in as the CBFC chairperson all of a sudden. I happily took up the job that the government thought me fit for. Now when the government has asked me to step down, I do so without any regret," Nihalani says.
"It was a big challenge while it lasted. When I came in, there was rampant corruption in the CBFC. I got rid of all the middlemen and touts who made money in the censor certification process. They too must be celebrating Diwali in advance this year," Nihalani says, laughing loudly.
He refrains from commenting on Prasoon Joshi, his incoming successor.
"Whoever takes over from me is welcome to do so. I only hope he doesn't reverse the work that I started at the CBFC. I feel we have achieved a lot in the past three years. We've speedened up the certification process and made it entirely digital," he says.
"I just hope my successor doesn't succumb to false notions of liberalism propagated by the pseudo-progressive elements in our film industry and work in a direction opposed to mine," he adds.
"Do I have any regrets? None at all. I worked in all sincerity and with utmost honesty. In the process I offended a lot of the so-called progressive elements. I also got labelled a Sanskari censor chief. I am proud of that label. I hope I am remembered as the CBFC chairperson who took a firm stand against vulgarity and pseudo-liberalism, no matter how unpopular it made me."
What future plans?
"I am returning to my first love, film production, in a big way. I will soon be announcing a slew of films. It has been a highly satisfying tenure at the CBFC for me. But it has also been exhausting and time-consuming. I am happy to make way for someone else."
IMAGE: Pahlaj Nihalani with Amitabh Bachchan who inaugurated the new Central Board of Film Certification office in south Mumbai, April 2017. Photograph: Pradeep Bandekar