Vajir Singh on the movies which have stir fried protests down the decades.. and some of them have gone on to sell more tickets as a result.
Amitabh Bachchan’s name had been dragged into the mire of the Bofors controversy just before the film’s release.. and he was beleaguered. But despite protests in the city, Lucknow and Allahabad, the much-awaited film, in which the actor was returning to the screen after two years since Aakhri Raasta, opened to an overwhelming response.
Our take: A so-so product. The front page headlines were attention grabbers.
Result:Hit.. controversy helps.
Sanjay Dutt’s breakthrough role in Subhash Ghai’s entertainer coincided with his arrest in connection with the 1993 Mumbai bomb blasts. The hype surrounding the event and his convincing portrayal as a guy with grey shades, fuelled the public interest.
Our take: With the Madhuri Dixit-Dutt chemistry, the movie would have become a hit even without the brouhaha.
Result: The posters of a handcuffed Dutt from the film with the tagline, “He’s the real khalnayak” weren’t exactly in good taste..but bolstered the film’s topicality.
It brought same-gender sex out of the closet. But since the two women were named after Hindu goddesses, there was an outbreak of anger, protests and the film was removed from the cinema halls.
Our take: Let the audience decide what they want to see.
Result: Controversy in this case, killed the movie.
It was initially titled Mustafa but a section of the Muslim community raised objections to its title which was then changed to Ghulam-e-Mustafa.
Our take: Partho Ghosh changed the title but not the script. Despite a top-grade performance by Nana Patekar, it just didn’t rivet your attention.
Result: It tanked.
Ek Chhotisi Love Story (2002)
It was released although Manisha Koirala took Shashilal Nair to court for using a body double for ‘obscene" shots’. Nair claimed that that the body double was used with his heroine’s consent.
Our take: Ek Motisi controversy.
Result: The film made money.
Karan Razdan insisted that he didn’t intend to shock but only spark a “healthy debate.” But the story of a possessive girlfriend who turns psycho ignited violent protests from hardliners who called for a ban. Once, the protests began, the audience was actually curious to see its titillating content. It was even released in the US and UK, where the overseas trade was just about striking root.
Our take: Audiences rushed to see the film before it was taken off. The ban didn’t happen. But the B grade movie benefited from a good opening and made money.
Said to be based on the true incident, it was called blasphemous by Christian priests. Yash Raj Films bought over the distribution rights, thinking that the controversy would help the film. But not many cinema exhibitors were willing to show it.
Our take: At least, it was good seeing Shiney Ahuja.
Result: Vanished with a whimper.
Maine Pyaar Kyun Kiya (2005)
Following the newspaper published transcripts of telephone conversations reportedly between Salman Khan and gangster Abu Salem, it’s screening was withheld in several cities in Madhya Pradesh. Protests and demonstrations by the Bajrang Dal deferred the film’s release in Mumbai, Nagpur, Indore, Jabalpur, Nasik and Gwalior.
Our take: The controversy gave the film a huge box-office boost.
Result: A hit is born.
Jo Bole So Nihaal (2005)
It landed in trouble for “insulting” the Sikhs. There were protests in Jalandhar and other cities in Punjab. Sikh organisations threatened to launch a series of protests if the Censorl Board didn’t impose a blanket Yet it was released and there was violence in some cities which was soon brought under control.
Our take: Well, a similar controversy got plenty of mileage for Singh is Kinng. So, there’s no telling.
Result: Controversy backfires.
Deepa Mehta wanted to make it in 2000, with Shabana Azmi, Nandita Das and Akshay Kumar. But thousands of protesters stormed the ghats in Varanasi, destroyed the sets, protesting against a film on widows. The film was eventually shot in Sri Lanka with Lisa Ray and John Abraham and even made it to the Oscar nominations..
Our take: Excellent photography and Lisa Ray looked like a thousand and one bucks.
Result: Audience’s loss.
A month before the film's release, Aamir Khan invited TV crews (he had lambasted them in a Tehelka interview not-so-long-ago) to Delhi's Jantar Mantar and announced that he was lending his support to the rehabilitation of families displaced by the controversial Sardar Sarovar Dam. Hell broke loose, especially in Gujarat. Khan's effigies were burnt and religious zealots made sure that Fanaa could not be released in the state.
Our take: Aamir Khan had the guts to stand up for a cause.
Result: Front-page headlines added to the film’s market equity for sure.
Rang De Basanti (2006)
On the verge of its release, the Animal Welfare Board recommended that a shot showing Aamir Khan on a horse should be deleted. Plus, the Armed Forces were miffed that scenes depicted them in a poor light. Director Rakeysh Mehra insisted the Film Censor Board had asked for no cuts.
Our take: Needless controversy.
Result: The movie rocked.
Jodhaa Akbar (2008)
It was said to depict history wrongly. According to the Rajput Karni Sena, an organisation spearheading the protest, Jodhaa was the daughter-in-law of Emperor Akbar and not his wife. An apology was demanded from the director for distorting “historical facts” but that didn’t happen. Result— many theatre owners in Rajasthan refused to screen the film, fearing violence. There were protests also on in other parts of the country like Ujjain, Indore, Meerut and Lucknow.
Our take: This controversy actually harmed the film’s prospects at the ticket counters. It was one of the costliest films ever made but couldn’t be released in some centers.
Result: Box-office dipped.