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We don’t have a provision to ban any film: Pahlaj Nihalani

Pahlaj Nilhalani

CBFC Pahlaj Nihalani explains why Prakash Jha is whipping up hype through the media for his movie Lipstick Under My Burkha

It’s certainly a unique way of publicizing a film and filmmaker Prakash Jha and Alankrita Srivastava appears to be using the tool. Their next film Lipstick Under My Burkha (directed by Alankrita) became ‘controversial’ after it was refused certification by the Central Board Of Film Certification (CBFC). Featuring Konkana Sen Sharma, Ratna Pathak Shah, Aahana Kumra and Plabita Borthakur, LUMB revolves around four women and their sexual desires and freedom but the cast doesn’t boast of a single top actress.

Over the last few months the CBFC and its Chairman, Pahlaj Nihalani have been slammed in social media for their anti-liberal, anti-feminist stance against the film. The trailer of  Lipstick Under My Burkha even has clippings of media articles outraging against the ‘ban’ of the film. How many trailers have we seen in recent times do that? There could never be a better way of promoting a film like except by making it into a raging controversy. Producer Ekta Kapoor decided to join the feminist bandwagon by presenting the film. Who knows better than her how to package and market a film effectively?

We decided to talk to Pahlaj Nihalani and first asked him about CBFC banning the film. Nihalani says, “Let me clarify – the CBFC doesn’t have any provision to ban any film. Lipstick Under My Burkha was never banned. We can refuse to give the film a certificate but we cannot ban it. There’s a certain procedure involved in getting a certificate. Once the CBFC refuses to give the certificate, the applicant (producer) can have a second option to go to the Revising Committee and if he wants to directly appeal to the Film Certification Appellate Tribunal (FCAT), he can do that too.”

Nihalani adds, “Lipstick Under My Burkha is definitely Prakash Jha’s first film which has been refused a certificate by the CBFC. In fact, most of Prakash’s movies have earlier been refused by the CBFC for various reasons, referred to the Revising Committee and even if cleared by them, he has still gone and appealed to FCAT. Fact is, too much noise was made out of this so-called ‘banning.’ Prakash keeps lots of time for the marketing and publicity of his films and doesn’t spend money on paid publicity. He takes support of and created buzz through the media to promote his films.”

Citing examples where Jha’s other films were refused certificates by the CBFC, Nihalani says, “Certain portions of Prakash’s Gangaajal (2003) were refused by the CBFC. He went to Revising Committee where he was told he would be given an A certificate without cuts but he wanted a U/A certificate with whatever number of cuts we would give. We made it U/A with his cuts and he said ‘okay fine’ but went to FCAT for to appeal further. Prakash has taken almost every film of his to the Tribunal, including Rajneeti, as he wasn’t happy with the certificate we were giving him. Of course, he has a right to do that as it’s his work but he utilizes the media at every step too, as he has lots of time, before the film releases. While making the film he keeps three-four months for the promotion of the film. Prakash is a highly intelligent, sharp and talented man,” Nihalani smiles.

The trailer of Lipstick Under My Burkha opens with the press clippings on the CBFC ‘banning’ the film or refusing the certificate. Pahlaj says, “Right now I can’t say anything about the digital space. That too requires a certificate because there’s a provision that any public exhibition of a trailer on TV or internet has to have one. We have been very busy about film certificates but now we are going to take up in the digital and television space too. People have asked us how the trailers of films like Kya Kool Hai Hum and Mastizaade were given certificates.”

He can expect another debate again on this. Pahlaj argues, “Worldwide too, Amazon and Netflix have to provide the certificate for the trailer and then only can content be loaded. Here people are using the digital and television platform for their trailers without a certificate but that will be difficult for them in the future. I have informed all the producers and marketing people associated with the films but they are not taking it seriously. Now we will stop giving them certificates.”

Is the controversy around Lipstick Under My Burkha a clever gimmicky publicity stunt or a filmmaker’s genuine grievance against the curbing of his creativity? Time will tell…

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