When Bollywood 'offended' public sentiments

Published: 20 November, 2013 08:34 IST | Shakti Shetty |

The things that seemed perfectly fine earlier are now fuelling unnecessary controversies for film industry

As they say opinion is like an a*****e. Everyone has one. With each film releasing, one or the other objection from some quarter or the other seems mandatory these days. However, many a times, a movie sees itself trapped in unnecessary drama including court cases and press conferences — although it gets free publicity in the process -- much against its own wish. The logic behind such controversies usually begs for... err... logic.

Ram Leela
This Sanjay Leela Bhansali film made (bad) news for apparently hurting religious sentiments. With the film having a strong Gujarati background, it wasn’t even shown at several theatres in Gujarat. The funny thing about the row is it took the ‘offended’ party several weeks to realise that they are indeed offended. After all, there was no noise whatsoever when the trailers were launched. Besides, it’s not the first time the word ‘Ram’ is used in the title of a film. Ram Aur Shyam, Ram Lakhan and Ram Jaane instantly spring to mind. However, the invested parties took caution and changed the film’s name from Ramleela to Ram-Leela before finally pinning on Goliyon Ki Rasleela: Ram-Leela. Uff!

Singh Saab The Great
Singh Saab The Great
For some reason, almost all the recent films featuring a Sikh protagonist have run into one trouble or the other. This Sunny Deol-starrer is the latest addition to the list. Apparently, the Censor Board had issues with a sequence where the lead actor removes his turban in order save a child’s life. Objection was raised but the rationality behind wasn’t. In the not-so-distant past too, there have been controversies surrounding films like Love Aaj Kal, Son of Sardaar, Singh is Kinng and Rocket Singh: Salesman of the Year. All the protagonists sported a turban as well as a beard and in the meantime, ended up ‘hurting the sentiments’ of those who felt that the characters weren’t portrayed the way they wanted.

Madras Cafe
Madras Cafe
When John Abraham decided to turn producer and support a sensitive film like Vicky Donor, he expected backlash -- if not indifference. However, he was to be surprised as the intelligent comedy went on to be come a sleeper hit. Later, John produced (besides acting in) Madras Cafe. Heavily based on former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination in Tamil Nadu, it reminded us that we haven’t hitherto made a single feature film on an intriguing episode of Indian policies. Naturally, John the producer was expecting warmth since the film is essentially pro-Tamil. Regardless, politicians in the southern state went on an overdrive to make sure the film isn’t released there. And this even before watching it!

What happened to this particular film clearly shows the strong nexus between religion and politics in the country, especially to the south of Vindhyas. An ambitious project written, directed by and starring Kamal Haasan, it fell victim to extreme emotional overtures by those who assumed too much. Muslim bodies in Tamil Nadu demanded a blanket ban claiming that the film was defamatory to Islamic ethos and would hurt Muslim sentiments if released. As far as the record goes, many theatres in the state simply cowed down to pressure and kept the shutters closed citing law and order problem. Nonetheless, it released in other states with greater Muslim populations than in Tamil Nadu -- with no trouble whatsoever.

Go Goa Gone
Go Goa Gone
If you think the anti-tobacco ads shown in cinema halls are surely repelling, you are not alone. Similarly, the statutory message flashing every time a character is seen smoking asks for common sense. After all, no such reminders are displayed when a character is drinking alcohol. This lopsided logic (or lack of it) reached a new height when the poster of this zombie-comedy released a film poster exhibiting a cigarette burn hole through the torso of a semi-naked woman. Whatever the intention may be, it definitely wasn’t to promote smoking amongst janta. Nevertheless, anti-tobacco registered a complaint seeking punishment for Saif Ali Khan as he was the producer of the film.

In bad company
>> No stranger to controversy, Prakash Jha suffered headaches when the song Mehengai in Chakravyuh (2012) courted objections from various quarters, especially the corporate ones.

My Name is Khan (2010) found itself in troubled waters after Shah Rukh Khan criticised the fact that Pakistani cricketers were not part of the ongoing Indian Premier League then.
>> Aamir Khan took a stand during the anti-Narmada Dam movement and paid the price by seeing his film Fanaa (2006) receive an inexplicable ban in Gujarat by the Modi government.
>> Directed by Rahul Dholakia, Parzania (2007) saw itself ostracised by ruling political parties and eventually banned in Gujarat citing fears of a communal uproar and “unneeded tension”.
>> No list of pre-release controversies is complete without Anurag Kashyap’s Black Friday (2007). A petition was filed in 2004 demanding stay on its release. After much delay, it was finally released in 2007. 

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