Contrary to what was believed all these years, Ketan Mehta’s just-released Rang Rasiya did not have censor troubles. The director told Hindustan Times over the telephone from Mumbai that he had spent a lot of money on making the film and it was quite a task to find a distributor.
The work, based on the celebrated painter, Raja Ravi Varma, was censored without any cuts in 2008, and had remained in the cans since then. "And when I finally found a distributor, I had this legal issue to grapple with. Indira Devi Kunjamma – the great granddaughter of Ravi Varma – moved a Kerala court to stay the screening of the movie," Mehta said. The petition alleged that Rang Rasiya had depicted the artist as a "playboy".
Mehta countered this by saying that his work was "not a true story", but based on a novel written by Ranjit Desai some 30 years ago. Although the case is still pending, the film hit theatres last Friday – though in Chennai it could find a screen only in way out places.
The director regretted that it had now become the norm to agitate against a movie without even watching it. The descendants of Ravi Varma had done precisely this. This seemed ironical, for Ravi Varma had always fought for artistic freedom. The helmer, who gave us great works like Bhavni Bhavai and Mirch Masala, contended, "I struggled all these years to get the film into theatres, because I was convinced that Ravi Varma was a great artist, whose story needed to be told through cinema. It is sad that while he had stood for the freedom of expression and won his case in the courts of British India, his descendants are negating what their great grandfather believed in and stood for…What is even more regrettable is that people were raising objections even before watching the film."
Rang Rasiya review: It's a piece of art that deserves a watch
Ravi Varma’s was not only a master painter -- who generally used Maharashtrian models to depict Hindu gods and goddesses – but also a social activist. He made olio graphs of his paintings – often scenes from the Ramayana and Mahabharata – that could be easily bought by poor people. Some of them were "untouchables" who were not allowed to enter temples in those times, and so they had these prints in their humble puja rooms at home.
In fact, the movie has one touching scene where we see these "untouchables" praying to the paper prints of gods and goddesses right outside a temple – where entry for them was barred.