By Sharanya Gopinathan
Did you throw a party last night when you heard the news that Pahlaj Nihalani has finally been kicked out of the job he was undertaking so professionally as head of the CBFC?
Let’s not waste any more time talking about that guy, because he’s already gotten way more publicity than he really ever should have, to the extent that he even once audaciously accused Mirror Now of using his name to get themselves publicity when they pursued him for a statement on a frankly inane bet he had made (and lost) with them.
Anyway, the new head of the CBFC (which stands for Central Board of Film Certification, not Censor Board FC as Nihalani tricked us into believing) is now Prasoon Joshi. He’s a poet, lyricist and ad executive, and was closely involved in both LK Advani’s 2009 campaign and the BJP’s 2014 election campaign that restructured focus entirely on Narendra Modi, so much so that he’s been referred to as the “dynamo” behind the 2014 campaign. (Just personally, I find this deeply worrying, because I’ve never liked anyone who’s been described as a “dynamo” before.) It was also around 2014 that he wrote the anthem Saugandh, which was voiced by that other dynamo, Narendra Modi. His most recent link to the BJP is his involvement in the Swachh Bharat campaign.
More interestingly, after the 2016 Rio Olympics Joshi wrote a poem honouring female athletes like Dipa Karmakar and Sakshi Malik, which many people found very inspiring and that TomatoHeart.com classified as a “tight slap on the face of the male chauvinists”.
Of course, he doesn’t bestow such kind words on everyone. Back in January 2016, when a vaanthi uncle tried to humiliate Sunny Leone in a televised interview on CNN-IBN (and failed spectacularly and got made fun of by the whole country), Joshi said that he does not respect Sunny Leone’s profession, likened her work to drug dealing and said that “if there is a profession which doesn’t play a constructive role in building a great society we need to criticise it as well”. (Leone naturally and truthfully responded to this criticism by saying, “I don’t know who Prasoon Joshi is.”)
On the plus side, despite his proven loyalty to the ruling BJP party, he has made some statements to the press on censorship that hopefully mean he isn’t as scissor-happy as Nihalani famously was. In an interview with Bollywood Hungama, Joshi once said that ‘we need to create a society where there is no requirement of any censorship’. Firstpost reports that at a public panel discussion, Joshi also questioned the government’s right to censor and asked why India needs censorship at all. He also once said he was disappointed with Bollywood songs that demean women, and pointed to his own work (he wrote Maa from Taare Zameen Par) for examples of songs that don’t demean them.
Not sure what to make of him yet, basically. He’s just as closely tied to the BJP as Nihalani was, if not closer, but as one commentator points out, the problem with Nihalani was not his active support for the BJP, but just his general prudery and love for random censorship. While Joshi’s respect for women and their choices seems to fluctuate depending on whether he approves of their careers or not, his statements against censorship when he wasn’t in power do seem like a good sign. And if they don’t turn out to reflect his true beliefs, they will be at least something we can hold him against him if he turns out to be as big a petty tyrant as Nihalani was.
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