First, a few extremist groups were protesting against the recent Aamir Khan-starrer PK. Their claim: it disrespected the Hindu religion. Then, a few days ago, right-wing fundamentalists reportedly sent hate mails to director Kabir Khan, alleging that his next, Bajrangi Bhaijaan, promotes ‘love jihad’ (the film deals with a Hindu-Muslim love story).
While such protests always lead to debates in the public realm, we ask film-makers how they react to it; and if any of them are forced to rethink what they want to show on screen.
Last year, some groups demanded that Kamal Haasan’s Vishwaroopam (2013) be banned (there were objections to the portrayal of Muslims in the film). Earlier, the Akshay Kumar-starrer, OMG - Oh My God! (2012), too, met with resentment. Kabir, the latest target, points out that only big-ticket films are singled out. "They don’t target small films as, then, their efforts might go unnoticed. Protests against big films get reported, so that’s an easy target," says Kabir.
Another filmmaker, too, alleges it’s often a way to gain publicity. "Such protests give an identity to the organisations. If they really have a concern and respect the country’s law, they should fight legally and not target theatres," says producer Ramesh Taurani.
How it hurts
While the courts do their bit by giving pragmatic judgements on a lot of ban requests, director Umesh Shukla (director of Oh My God) feels the government needs to take some sort of action: "Every random organisation is protesting against every other films. The Government should take stringent action against them for raising unnecessary issues; else films’ content, overall, will be hampered, as film-makers will be scared to bring up religious issues." The director also points that such incidents also end up jeopardising people’s safety. "Who is going to take responsibility of audiences’ security when protestors damage theatres?," Umesh wonders.
But while such events are unsavoury for those who make films, and a large section of the population that watches them, Subash Ghai claims that they are unsuccessful in deterring others from making such films. "We are not deterred by such objections when we know that we have the clearance of the Central Board of Film Certification."
Ghai actually feels that the added media coverage urges more people to watch a film: "People who may not have been interested in a film, will go watch it due to the curiosity created. But, having said that, such organisations, or their silly claims, should not be entertained."