New Delhi, Nov. 15: A music video by India's chief film censor Pahlaj Nihalani that eulogises Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been dubbed "an obscene form of flattery" by some within the film industry.
Mera Desh Hai Mahan, Mera Desh Hai Jawan (My country is great
and young) is showing in theatres countrywide during the intermission of
the Salman Khan movie Prem Ratan Dhan Payo, which released on Friday.
The video, which highlights Modi's "achievements" as Prime Minister,
is 6 minutes and 43 seconds long but the cinemas are screening abridged
"I've only made a patriotic song and Modiji, to me, is the greatest ambassador of the country at present," Nihalani told The Telegraph. "So I thought of highlighting, through the audio-visual medium, all that he is doing for the nation."
Nihalani's appointment as chief of the Central Board of Film
Certification in January was seen as reward for his production of the
video Har Har Modi, Ghar Ghar Modi in the run-up to last year's general election.
Mera Desh released on YouTube on November 10. It opens by
showing Modi praying in a temple and then performing yoga atop icy
mountains - in an apparently computer-generated image - where children
call him "Modi kaka (uncle)".
"I knew the Salman Khan film will draw big crowds," said Nihalani, who penned the lyrics.
"This will ensure that lakhs will watch and appreciate the video. I
approached the producers of the movie and they agreed to attach it (to
Nihalani said a copy of the video had been sent to the Prime
Minister's Office before it was released online and in the theatres.
In the song, directed by Ishwar Kumar, three men - Hindu, Muslim and
Christian - are shown vowing to fulfil the dreams of Mahatma Gandhi and
Modi. Waving the Tricolour, they refer to some of the Prime Minister's
pet schemes - including Clean India; Make in India; Skill India; Beti
Bachao, Beti Padhao (Save and educate the girl child) and the mass
banking scheme Jan Dhan Yojana - and the benefits of yoga.
Many social media users today castigated Nihalani for showing visuals from other countries while praising Modi's "achievements".
For instance, the video shows an expressway in Dubai, solar panels
and wind turbines in California, the Moscow International Business
Centre and a Nasa satellite launcher that carries the Make In India
Nihalani defended the visuals saying they were intended to project what India could achieve in future.
Several film industry veterans regretted the "new low" plumbed by a
political appointee. "How blatant, obscene and jarring can this get?
There has to be at least some sanctity of the chair a person holds,"
said Mukesh Bhatt, filmmaker and president of the Film and Television
Producers Guild of India.
"Fine, it was a political appointment, but that doesn't mean one
should start making propaganda videos to further strengthen that
perception. At least, artists and creative people should not do that."
Director Shyam Benegal said the censor board was working as a "true department" of the information and broadcasting ministry.
"Isn't the I&B ministry supposed to take care of the publicity of
the Prime Minister and the government? The censor board's chairperson
is doing that," he said.
Tweeters heaped scorn on the video. "Our beloved CBFC chairperson
shows how he got his job and keeps it, with a laughable/scary film on
Narendra Modi," Kaveri Sharma posted.
"The new Pahlaj Nihalani video about Sri 1008 Modiji is an accurate
visual representation of bhakts on social media every day. Hilarious!"
wrote Vishal Dadlani, singer-composer and an Aam Admi Party supporter.