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Padmaavat, Sanju, Manmarziyaan: Film controversies that shook Bollywood in 2018

Legal battles, bans, threats, objections on scenes and so on... several films in 2018 got mired in controversies one after the other. Here’s a quick recap

bollywood Updated: Dec 31, 2018 16:12 IST
Yashika Mathur
Yashika Mathur
Hindustan Times
Bollywood 2018,New Year 2019,Zero
Shahid Kapoor and Deepika Padukone in a still from filmmaker Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Padmaavat.

This year started with filmmaker Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s struggle to bring his labour of love, Padmaavat, to the big screen despite protests across the country. Bollywood’s tryst with opposition did not end with this much touted film’s release, as more stories brought trouble for filmmakers and several films that followed saw an uproar in some form or the other.

The poster of filmmaker Aanand L Rai’s recent release Zero, showing Shah Rukh Khan’s character holding a kirpan did not go down well with certain religious organisations and his look as a vertically challenged man did not invite nods from many in real life.

Asked if controversies just before the film’s release give sleepless nights to a filmmaker, Aanand says he was already aware that this may happen. “But I was not worried about it. My only concern was that I should tell the story properly. This was a responsibility on me. When I’m dealing with characters like a girl on wheelchair with cerebral palsy (Anushka Sharma’s character) or a vertically challenged man, I ask myself if I am  sensitive enough to understand that person. Only then should I work on it,” he explains.

Read| Zero: New video shows how Shah Rukh Khan’s vertically challenged character was created via VFX

Shah Rukh Khan played a vertically challenged man in Aanand L Rai’s Zero.

Filmmaker Shashanka Ghosh, whose film Veere Di Wedding invited a lot of flak for showing Swara Bhasker’s character masturbating in one of the scenes, feels that opinions from people need to be “taken into consideration” and only then one can decide if they are worth humouring or not. He reasons, “There will always be a section that will object to anything new [being shown in a film]. It’s a human condition called resistance to change. In our film, I didn’t want to be sensational and the censor board agreed with me and they are genuine moral guardians, but they agreed with me that narrative wise that was required to explain certain things.”

This is not the first time that Bollywood films got embroiled into controversies. Every year, some films or characters or scenes raise objections from various sections of the society. Ghosh says that any controversy around a film makes the filmmaker think twice. “Any objection is worth considering. When people object to a certain point, you need to see if they are doing it because of subjectivity or genuinely something that needs to be fixed. If its subjective, then it needs to be discarded because its my subjectivity versus theirs,” he adds.

A still from the film Veere Di Wedding.

But how does a controversy affect a film’s box office collection? Trade expert Atul Mohan says it all depends on what the overall product is. “We saw in the case of Padmaavat... it was a very big film, so people wanted to know what the protest was about. In case of small movies, the buzz is created but people don’t want to see. People discuss the films and it is not easy to fool the audience. So, when they know that a controversy is real, they get curious,” he explains.

Have there been films which have benefited from an uproar? “Yes, in the past films such as The Bandit Queen (1994) and maybe Fire (1996) have done well,” says Mohan.

Recap: Films that landed in trouble
  • Aiyaary: Defence Ministry and censor board raised objection to a scene that referred to a real-life scam
  • Sanju: Complaint filed against the toilet scene for allegedly showing Indian jails and its authorities in bad light
  • Mulk: Showing the age-old Hindu-Muslim divide, the film drew resistance from both the communities
  • Manmarziyaan: Abhishek Bachchan’s character smoking with turban on drew flak from Sikh groups and was later deleted
  • LoveYatri: The original title Loveratri was changed to LoveYatri following objections from Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) saying that it sounds similar to Hindu festival Navratri
  • Kedarnath: There were protests accusing the film to be a case of ‘love-jihad’ following which the film was banned in seven districts in Uttarakhand
  • Padmaavat: Hindu groups and a Rajput caste organisation accused the film of distorting facts showing Rani Padmavati in bad light

First Published: Dec 31, 2018 16:11 IST