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‘It’s a completely adult family film’: Pahlaj Nihalani stands up for ‘Julie 2’

The former CBFC chief spoke about ‘sanskar’ and ‘lady-oriented’ films, while presenting ‘Julie 2’.

Less than a month after being sacked as chairman of the Central Board of Film Certification, Pahlaj Nihalani has yet again managed to raise eyebrows. The Hindi filmmaker and producer has returned to the industry as the distributor of Deepak Shivdasani’s upcoming film Julie 2. A full-page advertisement in the Mid-Day newspaper on Monday featured the lead actress, Raai Laxmi, lounging on the beach, clad in a bikini bottom, a vital section of her torso strategically protected by a magazine.

But despite the suggestiveness of the ad, there is less to it than met the eye, Nihalani claimed at the launch of the trailer in Mumbai on Monday. “It does not have scenes of obscenity or vulgarity and is a completely adult family film,” the filmmaker said.

Nihalani began posing for the cameras using the poster as a backdrop, before going on to address the elephant in the room. “You might all be wondering why I started off distribution with Julie 2 of all the films,” he said. “People might think how I can be back with such a film even after being a sanskari. You all are looking at the film from the point of view of an erotic film. But every film has its own framework and its own ideas. When I listened to the story of Julie 2 in its initial stages, I found it to be very interesting as it is an inside-the-industry story.”

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Julie 2.

Starring Telugu actor Raai Laxmi in the titular role, Julie 2 narrates the many struggles of a rookie trying to make it big in Bollywood. The film is a sequel to Shivdasani’s 2004 production Julie starring Neha Dhupia. It will be released on October 6. The filmmakers refused to concede that their production could be classified as erotica. “This film is an eye-opener,” Nihalani said. “The film is also about how a few people in the film industry demean the industry’s name. I am grateful that I am associated with this film.”

Shivdasani insisted that his intention was not to sell skin. “Do not judge a film by its cover,” he declared. Laxmi echoed the same thought. “Down South, there is a limit to glamour, but with Julie 2, I have gone all out because the script requires it,” she said.

Pahlaj Nihalani, Raai Laxmi, Vijay Nair and Deepak Shivdasani at the trailer launch of Julie 2.
Pahlaj Nihalani, Raai Laxmi, Vijay Nair and Deepak Shivdasani at the trailer launch of Julie 2.

During his tenure as the censor board chairman, Nihalani had made headlines for his claims that he would not tolerate obscenity and vulgarity. Films submitted to the board were often subjected to seemingly arbitrary cuts and nicks. Asked about the censor board’s highly publicised refusal to certify Alankrita Shrivastava’s Lipstick Under My Burkha (which Nihalani had claimed as “lady oriented”) even as Julie 2 also focussed on a “woman’s fantasy”, the filmmaker fumed, “I know what you are referring to and all I would like to say is that there is no burkha here.”

Though Nihalani’s previous productions such as David Dhawan’s Shola Aur Shabnam (1992), Aankhen (1993) and Andaz (1994) contained a great deal of sexually suggestive material, the filmmaker stressed said that his productions had never run into trouble with the censor board. “Every human being has to fulfill their role,” he said. “Whatever role the government had given me, I fulfilled them with sincerity and accuracy. Now that I am back to films, I will see to it that I will give my hundred percent to this as well.”

He added that filmmakers often use the controversy created by run-in with the censor board as a tool to market their low-budget productions. “Films that don’t get a lot of marketing, tend to use the CBFC as a platform,” he said. “This is my battle and I will fight it all alone. I am a soldier and will fight it. I do not want the support of the industry. Whatever decision the CBFC gives on Julie 2, I will accept it.”

In keeping with his obsessive support for the Modi government, Nihalani concluded by drawing parallels between the administration’s Swachh Bharat Abhiyan sanitation programme and the need to cleanse the Hindi film industry. “Every human being cleans his own house and not his entire country or neighborhood,” Nihalani said “But now that the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan has started, it dawns on people’s minds that they should keep the entire country clean. Likewise I have always thought that one’s mind should always be clean, no matter what. And films are nothing but mirrors of the society. This is why we should show audience-appropriate content.”

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Khada Hai.

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Ten awesome TV shows to get over your post-GoT blues

With those withdrawal symptoms kicking in, all you need is a good rebound show.

Hangovers tend to have a debilitating effect on various human faculties, but a timely cure can ease that hollow feeling generally felt in the pit of the stomach. The Game of Thrones Season 7 finale has left us with that similar empty feeling, worsened by an official statement on the 16-month-long wait to witness The Great War. That indeed is a long time away from our friends Dany, Jon, Queen C and even sweet, sweet Podrick. While nothing can quite replace the frosty thrill of Game of Thrones, here’s a list of awesome shows, several having won multiple Emmy awards, that are sure to vanquish those nasty withdrawal symptoms:

1. Billions

There is no better setting for high stakes white collar crime than the Big Apple. And featuring a suited-up Paul Giamatti going head-to-head with the rich and ruthless Damien Lewis in New York, what’s not to like? Only two seasons young, this ShowTime original series promises a wolf-of-wall-street style showcase of power, corruption and untold riches. Billions is a great high-octane drama option if you want to keep the momentum going post GoT.

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2. Westworld

What do you get when the makers of the Dark Knight Trilogy and the studio behind Game of Thrones collaborate to remake a Michael Crichton classic? Westworld brings together two worlds: an imagined future and the old American West, with cowboys, gun slingers - the works. This sci-fi series manages to hold on to a dark secret by wrapping it with the excitement and adventure of the wild west. Once the plot is unwrapped, the secret reveals itself as a genius interpretation of human nature and what it means to be human. Regardless of what headspace you’re in, this Emmy-nominated series will absorb you in its expansive and futuristic world. If you don’t find all of the above compelling enough, you may want to watch Westworld simply because George RR Martin himself recommends it! Westworld will return for season 2 in the spring of 2018.

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3. Big Little Lies

It’s a distinct possibility that your first impressions of this show, whether you form those from the trailer or opening sequence, will make you think this is just another sun-kissed and glossy Californian drama. Until, the dark theme of BLL descends like an eerie mist, that is. With the serious acting chops of Reese Witherspoon and Nicole Kidman as leads, this murder mystery is one of a kind. Adapted from author Liane Moriarty’s book, this female-led show has received accolades for shattering the one-dimensional portrayal of women on TV. Despite the stellar star cast, this Emmy-nominated show wasn’t easy to make. You should watch Big Little Lies if only for Reese Witherspoon’s long struggle to get it off the ground.

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4. The Night of

The Night Of is one of the few crime dramas featuring South Asians without resorting to tired stereotypes. It’s the kind of show that will keep you in its grip with its mysterious plotline, have you rooting for its characters and leave you devastated and furious. While the narrative revolves around a murder and the mystery that surrounds it, its undertones raises questions on racial, class and courtroom politics. If you’re a fan of True Detective or Law & Order and are looking for something serious and thoughtful, look no further than this series of critical acclaim.

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5. American Horror Story

As the name suggests, AHS is a horror anthology for those who can stomach some gore and more. In its 6 seasons, the show has covered a wide range of horror settings like a murder house, freak shows, asylums etc. and the latest season is set to explore cults. Fans of Sarah Paulson and Jessica Lange are in for a treat, as are Lady Gaga’s fans. If you pride yourself on not being weak of the heart, give American Horror Story a try.

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6. Empire

At its heart, Empire is a simple show about a family business. It just so happens that this family business is a bit different from the sort you are probably accustomed to, because this business entails running a record label, managing artistes and when push comes to shove, dealing with rivals in a permanent sort of manner. Empire treads some unique ground as a fairly violent show that also happens to be a musical. Lead actors Taraji P Henson and Terrence Howard certainly make it worth your while to visit this universe, but it’s the constantly evolving interpersonal relations and bevy of cameo appearances that’ll make you stay. If you’re a fan of hip hop, you’ll enjoy a peek into the world that makes it happen. Hey, even if you aren’t one, you might just grow fond of rap and hip hop.

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7. Modern Family

When everything else fails, it’s comforting to know that the family will always be there to lift your spirits and keep you chuckling. And by the family we mean the Dunphys, Pritchetts and Tuckers, obviously. Modern Family portrays the hues of familial bonds with an honesty that most family shows would gloss over. Eight seasons in, the show’s characters like Gloria and Phil Dunphy have taken on legendary proportions in their fans’ minds as they navigate their relationships with relentless bumbling humour. If you’re tired of irritating one-liners or shows that try too hard, a Modern Family marathon is in order. This multiple-Emmy-winning sitcom is worth revisiting, especially since the brand new season 9 premiers on 28th September 2017.

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8. The Deuce

Headlined by James Franco and Maggi Gyllenhaal, The Deuce is not just about the dazzle of the 1970s, with the hippest New York crowd dancing to disco in gloriously flamboyant outfits. What it IS about is the city’s nooks and crannies that contain its underbelly thriving on a drug epidemic. The series portrays the harsh reality of New York city in the 70s following the legalisation of the porn industry intertwined with the turbulence caused by mob violence. You’ll be hooked if you are a fan of The Wire and American Hustle, but keep in mind it’s grimmer and grittier. The Deuce offers a turbulent ride which will leave you wanting more.

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9. Dexter

In case you’re feeling vengeful, you can always get the spite out of your system vicariously by watching Dexter, our favourite serial killer. This vigilante killer doesn’t hide behind a mask or a costume, but sneaks around like a criminal, targeting the bad guys that have slipped through the justice system. From its premier in 2006 to its series finale in 2013, the Emmy-nominated Michael C Hall, as Dexter, has kept fans in awe of the scientific precision in which he conducts his kills. For those who haven’t seen the show, the opening credits give an accurate glimpse of how captivating the next 45 minutes will be. If it’s been a while since you watched in awe as the opening credits rolled, maybe you should revisit the world’s most loved psychopath for nostalgia’s sake.

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10. Rome

If you’re still craving an epic drama with extensive settings and a grandiose plot and sub-plots, Rome, co-produced by HBO and BBC, is where your search stops. Rome is a historical drama that takes you through an overwhelming journey of Ancient Rome’s transition from a republic to an empire. And when it comes to tastes, this series provides the similar full-bodied flavour that you’ve grown to love about Game of Thrones. There’s a lot to take away for those who grew up quoting Julius Caesar, and for those looking for a realistic depiction of the legendary gladiators. If you’re a history buff, give this Emmy-winning show a try.

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This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Hotstar and not by the Scroll editorial team.