Historians to re-write Bolly-scripts?

Depiction of historical characters in films has become an unending saga of controversies, writes Bhawna Gera.

india Updated: Dec 15, 2006 16:42 IST

Did Nawab Sultan overdo his look? Did Netaji share an intimate relationship with Emilie Schenkl? Was Jodhabai Akbar’s daughter-in-law? Historians are a bit upset.

When it comes to films, it is facts that matter the most. Or why else would there be such a furore over Nawab Sultan’s dressing style in UmraoJaan, or doubts over the intimacy of Netaji’s relationship with Emilie Schenkl as shown in Bose: The Forgotten Hero or protests over Mangal Pandey’s relationship with a prostitute as shown in Mangal PandeyThe Rising, and a court notice over Jodha’s portrayal in Jodha-Akbar.

Well, it is an ending saga of controversies that stem from the depiction of such historical characters on the big screen. And it is the historians who have the last laugh, crying hoarse over the distortion of facts in films, they fuel a juicy debate.

Matter of fiction:
Last week, the Rajput community protested the portrayal of Jodhabai in Ashutosh Gowarikar’s Jodha Akbar. According to them, Ashutosh is tampering with history as Jodha and Akbar were never married. More so, according to them, Jodha was Mughal emperor’s daughter-in-law.

This battle of facts seems like a perfect potboiler in real life. There are not just angry protests, but also a couple of PILs that are filed, urging the filmmaker to stop the shooting or if the film is ready to hit the theatres, then stop the screening. Too much to handle, both for the filmmaker and the audience.

Row-ing ahead:
But why such a controversy? Why are these PILs filed? Trade analyst Indu Mirani feels that the main motive is cheap publicity. “You can blame it on the poor tolerance level of certain sections of the society. They just refuse to treat a work of fiction as fiction. They forget that there is something called creative license,” she adds.

According to filmmaker Akbar Khan of Taj Mahal fame, “Such moves are politically motivated. There may be some anti-social elements who are involved or it could be just lack of true knowledge.”

Most of the filmmakers who have had a bitter taste of such fight over facts contend that such moves are not always driven by genuine concern. But their only grouse — issuing such frivolous public interest litigations, which should rather be called private interest litigation, curb the creative freedom of the filmmakers and it is not the right act, says JP Dutta. So first thing first — it is better to get the facts right.

Take 5 - A view from the West

1 The Last Temptation of Christ: The film was denounced as pornographic even before its release.
2 The Passion of the Christ: Critics called Mel Gibson’s film as anti-Semitic.
3 JFK: Oliver Stone’s docufilm thriller was a controversial epic on the probe into JFK’s assassination.
4 The Da Vinci Code: There were protests against the misrepresentations of core aspects of Christianity.
5 Fahrenheit 9/11: Michael Moore’s film was a critical expose and scathing indictment of George Bush’s presidency.


First Published: Dec 11, 2006 01:00 IST