Ashok Pandit

Ashok Pandit
NEW DELHI: In a significant embarrassment to the government, senior Censor Board members Pahlaj Nihalani and Ashoke Pandit are engaged in a slanging match. While CBFC chief Nihalani accused bete noir and board member Ashoke Pandit of forgery and cheating, the latter has targeted him for acting like a dictator. Nihalani said that he had documentary evidence against Pandit that he would present before the information and broadcasting (I&B) ministry.

Pandit has earlier slammed the CBFC chairperson of running the Board as his personal fiefdom. Nihalani has also come under fire for producing a music video that eulogizes PM Modi. Even as the sparring between the two blew up in to a war of words, I&B minister of state Rajyavardhan Rathore advised that the CBFC work as a certification body rather than censoring one.

“Ashoke Pandit does not deserve to be on the Board. How can a person who has cheated the CBFC sit in judgment on films here? He has submitted forged documents to the board claiming to be a producer for a Gujarati film “Dikree” that he had nothing to do with. I have all the evidence against him and I will give it to the ministry,” Nihalani said.

The CBFC chief said that Pandit was maligning the image of the  government by spreading lies about the working of the Board. “He is spoiling the name of the government in the media and not allowing the Board to work,” Nihalani added.

Denying the allegations Pandit said that he was willing to explain his case to the ministry if asked. Pandit had on Friday said that he was planning to write to PM Modi and I&B minister Arun Jaitley against Nihalani’s unilateral style of working.

The Board has been under fire recently for shortening the kissing scenes in the latest James Bond flick Spectre. Not only were the smooches between Bond and his leading ladies pared down by 50% but expletives like “asshole” was replaced by “idiot,” “bastard” by “bighead” and inexplicably “balls” by “cats.”

While Nihalani has distanced himself from the edits, two Board members Pandit and Nandini Sardesai have questioned the necessity of such cuts. Other members too have expressed discomfort at Nihalani’s style of working but are reluctant to openly complain against him, say sources.

Meanwhile, the Centre chose to distance itself from the raging debate on censorship. Speaking to reports at IFFI Goa, Rathore said, “Censor Board is not a government mouthpiece. It needs to provide certification and not censor stuff. We are very firm. It’s an autonomous body and I want to advise them to work as a board. An individual’s views need not be propagated and censorship should be in tandem with the Constitution.”