mid-day editorial: Time to reel in the controversy

Sensing an opportunity to grab eyeballs, the Shiv Sena has jumped into the simmering controversy over Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s forthcoming movie, Bajirao Mastani. The film has been in the eye of a storm for a while now. Recently, irked descendants of Peshwa Bajirao and Mastani came together to slam Bhansali for the portrayal of their ancestors. Now, the issue may just become another political potboiler with the Sena threatening Bhansali with consequences, if certain songs are not deleted.

We have seen objections to portrayals in movies in the past as well — the Rajput community claimed that Jodha Bai was not Akbar’s wife, which created trouble for Ashutosh Gowariker and his film, Jodha Akbar. The community accused Gowariker of distorting history and the movie was banned in several parts of northern India, mainly Rajasthan. There was the Fanaa fracas; the Aamir Khan movie was not released in Gujarat after he raised his voice against increasing the height of the Narmada dam.

The Shiv Sena got much mileage after the controversy over Shah Rukh Khan’s My Name is Khan. The movie went ahead with heavy police presence at different theatres. There was the Aarakshan imbroglio, where the film invited ire from several political parties on the movie’s subject of caste-based reservation system in India.

It is time people wise up to political measures, which seek to exploit such films. Take a studied and measured view of what the filmmaker is trying to say, without falling prey to sloganeering and unnecessary inflaming of passions by political parties.

A filmmaker must have creative licence — within limits — even when making ‘historical’ films. The director may look at a certain era through a different prism. Asking for cuts or bans will be counterproductive; it will only stoke people’s curiosity and make them want to see a film or read a book even more. It’s not Bajirao Mastani but such political shenanigans that should be history.

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