The much anticipated Sanjay Leela Bhansali film Ram-Leela releases today and just a couple of days ago, the incendiary VHP leader Praveen Togadia was quoted as protesting against the movie. According to Togadia the movie mocks mythological significance. Earlier the movie also attracted the ire of the Rajput community for allegedly inaccurate portrayal of a section of society and then movie hit the headlines because the screening was stayed by a Delhi Court scant days before release. So we now have a new addendum to the movie title and it is now referred to a Goliyon Ki Raasleela – Ram-Leela.
It would seem that our sentiments are all too easily hurt – people become offended by practically anything. Witness the number of films that have been taken to court in recent times because of individuals or groups seeking a stay on songs, names, scenes, portrayals, characters in films or entire films. The reliefs sought range from alterations in lyrics, to changes in movie titles, to deletion of dialogues or scenes or the outright banning of films.
Witness the slew of films that were in the news recently for one or more of these reasons:
- Most recently Satya 2 was in the news for some controversy regarding the postponement of its release
- Madras Café was sought to be stayed because groups were protesting against the manner in which the LTTE was portrayed in the film
- Satyagraha was another that made headlines because residents of areas of Bhopal where the filming was being done felt that the historic fabric of the area would become damaged because of the filiming.
- OMG-Oh My God was a delightful film and one that told some uncomfortable truths so it was found to attract the ire of various groups.
- The Kamala Hasan film Vishwaroop attracted protests because it supposedly portrayed certain groups in poor light and the film’s screening was in fact stayed in Tamil Nadu
- People even found the song Radha in the film Student of the Year offensive – apparently Radha cannot or should not be ‘sexy’
- Sometime back, the release of Prakash Jha’s film Arakshan was delayed because it was felt that its release could lead to law and order problems
Films are even sought to be banned for statements that individual actors have made in their own private capacity as in the case of Aamir Khan and his film Fanaa and Shah Rukh Khan and his film My Name is Khan.
Controversy – Coincidence or Contrivance?
Is it mere coincidence that so many big banner film releases attract censure from so many quarters? One reason could be that these are very visible, high value targets that individuals and groups target to further their own agendas.
However it seems rather convenient that these controversies tend to erupt shortly before the film release; thereby keeping in firmly in the headlines and therefore in the consciousness of the film going public. Could it be that these controversies are actually contrived by filmmakers to help publicise their movies; a deliberate contrivance based on the old adage, All publicity is good publicity.
While no film will succeed only on the basis of such publicity stunts, the controversy certainly serves to fan the curiosity of more people, so that a film will at least get a good opening. If the release of a film is delayed in one region for instance, it makes people there all the more eager to watch the film; more likely to go to the theater to watch it. The publicity – negative or otherwise has a directly beneficial impact on the fortunes of the film.
It may be difficult to believe that filmmakers actually engineer these publicity stunts – the fact that we have such a thin-skinned population that takes offence at pretty much everything, probably means that the controversies are spontaneous. But filmmakers probably aren’t every eager to put a lid on them either. It is a situation that they can and do take advantage of.
The controversy surrounding Ram-Leela, sorry Goliyon Ki Raasleela – Ram-Leela only served to whet the appetite of audiences – the stay has been lifted and the movie will release as per schedule everywhere. No harm done. It now remains to be seen whether the controversy will help or hinder the fortunes of the movie.
By Reena Daruwala