The government is likely to appoint Suresh Oberoi chairman of the censor board, rewarding the 67-year-old actor for the strong batting his son Vivek, also an actor, did for Narendra Modi.
Sources in the information and broadcasting ministry said Oberoi senior was the favourite among five names “currently on the table”.
The others in the reckoning for chairperson of the Central Board of Film Certification are Nitish Bharadwaj and Gajendra Singh Chauhan — Krishna and Yudhishthira in B.R. Chopra’s 1988-1990 TV series Mahabharat — activist and filmmaker Ashok Pandit and veteran Bengali movie actor George Baker.
“The name of actress and Chandigarh MP Kirron Kher was also considered but the government does not want to appoint a sitting MP. That her husband Anupam Kher has been a CBFC chairman during the previous NDA regime also goes against her. Among the five names currently on the table, Oberoi is the favourite,” a source in the ministry said.
“I&B minister Prakash Javadekar is meeting the Prime Minister later this week, after which the name would be announced,” the source added.
Oberoi had joined the BJP a decade back but has kept a low profile. But his son has been a vocal supporter of Modi, although a major section of the film industry had come together and issued statements to support “secular forces”.
Earlier this year, Vivek had described Modi as a “karmayogi” and also praised the BJP mascot’s development model.
If Oberoi is chosen, he would succeed danseuse Leela Samson, who completed her term earlier this year. The board is almost defunct now as the tenures of most of its 23 members have expired.
Some within the industry appeared apprehensive. “The BJP is known to be a conservative party and its outlook towards art and culture does not always support the progressive world we live in. Moreover, while Oberoi is someone from the industry, he is perceived to be low key and not very assertive, so it will be difficult to do a balancing act between the government and the industry,” said a filmmaker who didn’t want to go on record.
Director Kalpana Lajmi said whoever is appointed the new chairperson should be “enlightened and aware of the evolving value structure of Indian society”.
Samson, who had a few run-ins with the government, had a word of caution for her successor. “The CBFC’s autonomy is nothing but a joke. The government interferes in every aspect of its functioning…. Even filmmakers, who question the very existence of the CBFC, run to the ministry every time there is some problem. I hope the present government restores some of the dignity of the body,” she said.
Neither Oberoi senior, nor his son, could be reached for comment.