Vivek Agnihotri describes his controversial erotic thriller, Hate Story, as a small, independent movie in mainstream cinema. He believes that one of the reasons it became a ‘talking point’ weeks before its release is because they did not have a budget for social media and standard promotions. Coming from an ad film background, the director himself flagged off the publicity by releasing a poster of a faceless woman straddling a faceless man with ‘Love killed her soul, her body seeks revenge’ scribbled on her bare back.
“As expected, it sparked off a flood of reactions. Every day I would take an hour off and re-tweet every comment, good, bad or ugly,” reminisces Vivek, who then released an uncensored teaser promo on YouTube. “I had no idea it would go viral,” he insists.
Though the promo had to be toned down considerably for the theatrical screening, the film’s poster continued to do the rounds till a couple of days ago when the West Bengal Board of Censorship banned it. The posters featuring an actor flaunting her bare back with just a pistol hanging and another of a couple in a compromising position, were deemed to be too “obscene and provocative” for public display. Six other posters were passed, provided the bare back and cleavage were blotted with blue ink, an order upheld by the Calcutta High Court.
About the ban, Vivek says, “The Censor Board is supposed to only censor Bengali films and not posters.” He adds, “I’m surprised by the choice of blue ink over black. I guess these people had ‘blue film’ on their minds or maybe because blue ink is cheaper.”
And as he moves away from his usual multiplex movies to direct this mass-entertainment Vikram Bhatt film, Vivek insists that the idea wasn’t to titillate. “What people refer to as a lovemaking scene is far less provocative than a hero and a heroine romping on the beach to a song,” he argues. “After compiling the reactions we’ve received so far, I’ve come to realise that seven out of 10 women have no problems with the film. The objections come from the men who don’t like seeing a woman on top, saying ‘if you f*** me, I’ll f*** u too’. As a man I can understand their mindset, even though I don’t agree with it!”