Pahlaj Nihalani
Bharati Dubey (MID-DAY; July 24, 2017)

It may have been over a week to the International Indian Film Academy (IIFA) Awards that was held in New York, but the award ceremony continues to hit headlines.

A day after filmmaker and CBFC Chief Pahlaj Nihalani sent a five-page legal notice to the IIFA and Wizcraft International [the organisers of the event] asking for a public apology for the defamatory remarks passed against him by Riteish Deshmukh and Maniesh Paul, the organisers have termed the whole episode a “misunderstanding”.

Sabbas JosephSpeaking to mid-day, Sabbas Joseph [director, Wizcraft International, pictured on the right] said, “There is no statement or event in the show that warrants any notice. Pahlajji will get a better understanding of the show once he sees it. We have always respected Pahlajji, who has originally been on the IIFA advisory board, and has always been [of tremendous] help. I am sure it is a misunderstanding that will be corrected once Pahlajji sees the show on television again.”

In the legal notice sent to IIFA, Nihalani’s lawyer Suren Uppal stated that his client’s picture was misused at the awards ceremony. It further stated that Nihalani was referred to as a ‘watchman’ during a sketch performed by Deshmukh and Paul at IIFA Rocks, with the intent to “create an adverse atmosphere in the public against Nihalani” and “to increase the TRP of the show”. The notice also pointed out how defamatory remarks were passed against the CBFC by hosts Shahid Kapoor and Farhan Akhtar during IIFA 2016 as well.

The notice demanded that IIFA immediately withdraw the defamatory remarks made against Nihalani, under their authorisation. Nihalani also demanded an unconditional apology across media outlets and a pledge to not malign him in the future with such “frivolous remarks”. Last week, Nihalani had slammed the award show for not nominating Aamir Khan’s Dangal (2016) and Akshay Kumar [Rustom and Airlift, 2016]. IIFA had clarified then that Khan had not filed nominations in the first place.

Maniesh Paul and Riteish Deshmukh