Subhash K Jha
Filmmaker Pahlaj Nihalani, who was sacked as CBFC chief on Friday, said he had no regret about being asked to step down, is proud of being labelled as 'Sanskari' censor chief and had in fact been preparing for his exit since the last six months.
Nihalani, who was appointed to the post in 2015, a year after Modi became the Prime Minister, has been replaced by writer-lyricist-ad guru Prasoon Joshi.
One of the most controversial censor board chairpersons who ran into skirmishes with film producers over cuts, beeps and disclaimers he insisted on, Nihalani spoke in a relaxed frame of mind a few hours after the news of his ouster went viral.
"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'm not going to name them on-record are currently celebrating premature Diwali.
"Unka toh tyohaar mere jaane se ho gaya (They are in a festive mood because of my ouster)," he said.
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.
"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," he said.
He refrained from commenting on Joshi being his successor.
"Whoever takes over from me is welcome to do. 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 speeded up the certification process and made it entirely digital. 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.
"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's been a highly satisfying tenure at the CBFC for me. But it's also been exhausting and time-consuming. I'm happy to make way for someone else," he added.
Before cracking down on a variety of movies, Nihalani had produced a string of films including "Paap ki Duniya", "Aag ka Gola", "Shola aur Shabnam", "Aankhen" and "Talaash: The Hunt Begins".