CBFC member Ashoke Pandit, among the loudest critics of Nihalani, has also been dropped from the board with immediate effect.
The decision follows the assessment in the government that Nihalani was attracting unwarranted controversy over decisions relating to cuts in films and the board had become a source of harassment for filmmakers. The board was seen as obstructionist rather than a facilitator and its decisions were being seen as having the government's backing.
Nihalani is understood to have been sounded out about his replacement a few weeks back and did not take the news well. The government has been keen on ensuring a smooth transition and on Friday finally reconstituted the censor board. TOI had first reported the move to replace Nihalani on July 25.
The board now comprises Bollywood actor Vidya Balan, Tamil actors Gautami Tadimalla and Jeevitha Rajashekhar, author Narendra Kohli, director-producer Naresh Chandra Lal and Vivek Agnihotri, award-winning concert pianist and Hindi music director Neil Herbert Nongkynrih, National School of Drama director Waman Kendre, Kannada film director T S Nagabharana, and dialogue-writer Mihir Bhuta as members. The ministry also appointed RSS ideologue Ramesh Patange and former BJP secretary and theatre artist Vani Tripathi Tikoo as CBFC members of three-year tenures.
Nihalani was seen on his way out following a meeting of Board members in Thiruvananthpuram in July. Sources in the ministry said Nihalani's removal follows several months of feedback received by the information and broadcasting ministry from the film industry, which cited sustained harassment at the hands of the CBFC chief. The industry also suggested that Nihalani, as chief of the film certification board, had showed a propensity to be censor with a heavy hand.
Nandy also said CBFC is a certifying body, not one that can instruct people what to watch what not to watch.