The course of true never did run smooth, but that’s an adage that could easily be applied to a Bollywood film’s release as well. From offending sentiments to contentious references, many a Bollywood film has found itself the target of ire from a certain section of the populace. Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Padmavati is only the latest. The controversy was triggered when members of the Karni Sena, a Rajput interest group in Jaipur, vandalised the sets of Padmavati earlier this year. They accused the filmmaker of playing with history and distorting the image of the queen they revere. Since then, various other groups and even some political figures have joined the fray in attacking the film, demanding that Bhansali screen Padmavati for them before its theatrical release. Threats have also been issued against the film’s lead actress, Deepika Padukone. With just weeks to go for its scheduled release date of 1 December 2017, the stakes are high indeed, for Bhansali’s magnum opus.
Here are six other Bollywood films that had a rocky road to release in the recent past, amid widespread protests and opposition:
Bhansali’s last release — 2016’s Bajirao Mastani — found itself in hot water when the descendants of Peshwa Bajirao lead a strong protest against the so-called “fictional” portrayal of their ancestor, a Maratha warrior getting married to a Muslim princess (roles played by Ranveer Singh and Deepika Padukone, respectively).
As soon as the details of the movie began to appear in the press, descendants of Peshwa Bajirao and Kashibai (played by Priyanka Chopra in the film) and certain groups began to register angry protests. Just like with Padmavati, theyere were attempts to halt the film’s release throughout India, but after repeated assurances that Bajirao Mastani’s story was presented tastefully, the protesters withdrew.
Goliyon ki Rasleela: Ram-Leela
Again it was Sanjay Leela Bhansali who had to confront the Rajput Samaj and ultimately, was forced to add a prefix to Ram-Leela’s title.
The Rajput Samaj of Ahmedabad was extremely unhappy with the film ahead of its release — the film’s original title (Ramleela, later changed to Ram-Leela) was the issue — and for a while it was uncertain as to whether the film would even be released. Petitions were filed against it in court, on the grounds that it harmed Hindu sentiments. Fortunately, once a Delhi court okayed the title change, the film’s path to the theatres became a little clearer.
Ae Dil Hai Mushkil
Among the most bitter stand-offs in Bollywood history between a film and a political party, Karan Johar’s Ae Dil Hai Mushkil nearly didn’t release in theatres. Johar’s film starred Ranbir Kapoor, Anushka Sharma, Aishwarya Rai and also Fawad Khan. The film was releasing close on the heels of the September 2016 Uri attack, when anti-Pakistan sentiment was high. Moreover, there had also been calls to ban Pakistani artistes from working in India. ADHM and Raees (which featured Mahira Khan) were caught in the crossfire. The Raj Thackeray-led Maharashtra Navnirman Sena was at the forefront of the protests against Johar and ADHM, a situation that was only defused after Johar released a video apologising, and also explaining that Fawad had been cast in his film much before the Uri attacks. The filmmaker also made a contribution to the Army fund. Finally, the film released across theatres without incident.
Many groups were angry at Raju Hirani and his team for “making fun of Hinduism” with the Aamir Khan-starrer PK. In PK, Aamir played an alien on earth who goes around exposing the blind beliefs and superstitions practised in society. members of the VHP and Bajrang Dal burned the film’s posters, while the All India Muslim Board demanded that some sections of the film be deleted in the interests of communal harmony. On its release, PK went on to become the highest earning Indian film — and was only upstaged in 2017 by Baahubali 2: The Conclusion and Aamir’s Dangal.
My Name Is Khan
Shah Rukh Khan supported the presence of Pakistani cricketers in the IPL, and had to confront the wrath of the Shiv Sena and the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena. The political parties said they wouldn’t allow his film to release in theatres unless the superstar apologised for his comments. SRK, however, refused. However, he received a tremendous amount of support from his well-wishers and fans and the film did ultimately release, without any incident marring the same.
When Ashutosh Gowariker’s film was to release, Rajput groups threatened to stall its release on the grounds that it mis-portrayed the relationship between Jodhabai and Emperor Akbar. They contended that Jodha was married to Salim, Akbar’s son, and that her parentage was also depicted incorrectly by the filmmaker. The Karni Sena too joined in, saying they would not allow screenings of the Aishwarya Rai Bachchan-Hrithik Roshan starrer. Gowariker on his part claimed he had consulted historians before starting work on his film.