Rabble-rousers, intolerance hit Bollywood releases

August 10th, 2008 - 9:49 pm ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Akshay Kumar
By Priyanka Khanna
New Delhi, Aug 10 (IANS) As agitations hit Bollywood productions with regular frequency, the growing public intolerance is making filmmakers bleed and term the onslaughts as terrorism against creativity. High-pitched Akshay Kumar-Katrina Kaif-starrer “Singh is Kinng” is the latest to have apparently disturbed public sentiments because a community is unhappy with the way it has been depicted in the film. This despite of the fact that director Anees Bazmi claims he had taken special precaution not to hurt anyone, going to the extent of re-shooting certain scenes by calling the actors back to the location in South Africa.

For a year that started with widespread agitations and even temporary ban in some states of history-inspired Ashutosh Gowarikar’s “Jodhaa-Akbar”, the growing public intolerance does not come as a surprise.

Just before the release of “Jodhaa-Akbar”, there were widespread protests against a line in a song in Madhuri Dixit’s comeback film “Aaja Nachle”. Haryana, Punjab and Uttar Pradesh went to the extent of banning the movie temporarily.

And much like “Jodhaa-Akbar” the Aamir Khan-starrer “Mangal Pandey: The Rising” also got into trouble in 2005 as descendants of the freedom fighter moved the Delhi High Court for allegedly portraying him in poor light.

Later, some comments over the Narmada dam construction made by Aamir earned him the wrath of an entire state. His film “Faana” was not allowed to be shown in Gujarat. It was widely feared that recently released “Jaane Tu…Ya Jaane Na”, produced by Aamir, would not be welcomed there but the film had a smooth release in the state.

Megastar Shah Rukh Khan has remained largely unaffected from courting political controversies but his luck ran out when he mimicked yesteryears’ star Manoj Kumar in last year’s blockbuster “Om Shanti Om”.

Another film that year - “Jo Bole So Nihal” - invited protests from Sikhs for using their holy slogan in the title.

Perhaps the most volatile public reaction against any filmmaker was when internationally acclaimed Deepa Mehta set out to make a film based on child widows of Varanasi as a follow-up to her film based on alternative sexual preferences of some women.

Deepa had to abandon India as a location. She was, however, vindicated when the film came close to bagging the Oscar as Canada’s entry in the foreign films category.

While these are some high-profile incidents of politics taking precedence over creative expression, there have been a series of similar but less known disruptions.

Like when filmmaker Rahul Dholakia made a film on communal riots of 2002 in Gujarat, but “Parzania” was banned in the state. Dholakia was peeved and said: “After a film is cleared by the Central Board of Film Certification, nobody has the right to demand a ban on it or disrupt its screenings.”

For some industry watchers it seems that the media is to blame for the increasing number of protests before any big film release. Anything controversial gets the maximum TRPs, so the media is often seen as creating a hype about an issue where there is none, they say.

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