Undoubtedly, Bollywood has grown over the years with the rapid advancements in technology, the way stories are being shown on celluloid and how filmmakers are experimenting with myriad subjects.
The fast-paced developments in the Hindi film industry have not only transformed the content but audiences have also become selective about films. The cinema of the 1980s or 1990s was not seen as a flourishing period for Bollywood, and this can be attributed to a lack of creative ideas, resources and limited technology.
However, amid the growing changes in the Hindi film industry over the years, the filmmakers have found a new challenge that has created many roadblocks in the past and continues to pose an obstruction for the entire film unit, especially for celebrities and producers.
‘Religious sensitivity’ – a term that has found a new love among certain sections of society when it comes to Bollywood movies. Over the years, there has been an uproar, by and large, over the ‘titles’ of Bollywood films which have sparked controversies and that have compelled filmmakers to issue an apology or change the title of their films.
Recently Akshay Kumar-starrer ‘Laxmmi Bomb’ draws flak from people for using the name ‘Laxmi’ in the title and associated it with a bomb. The Laxmmi is the name of the Hindu goddess and the title offended some section of the society in India which forced the makers of the film to omit the word ‘bomb’ and change the title to Laxmi’ only.
Similarly, a few years back, there was a huge controversy over the film ‘Padmaavat’, directed by the ace director Sanjay Leela Bhansali and featured the real-life couples Ranveer Singh and Deepika Padukone. The Padmavat was originally titled ‘Padmvaati’ and was a biopic about the Rajput queen of Rajasthan’s Chittorgarh.
The movie caught the attention of a Rajput community outfit called Karni Sena and they even burned the movie set and manhandled Bhansali over a remark which Ranveer Singh made during a press meet. The actor, who essayed the role of an Islamic ruler Allaudin Khilji, had said Bhansali is going show a dream song between Rani Padmavati and Khilji. This infuriated the Rajput community because the historical record says that Khilji was so enamored of Padmavati’s beauty that he wanted to marry her, and for the same, he waged a war against the Chittorgarh kingdom. Rani Padmavati walked into a fiery crucible in order to save her modesty and pride.
Since then, Rani Padmavati became a symbol of courage and people started respecting her to the godly level. This led to the change of the title of the movie ‘Padmavati’ to ‘Padmaavat’.
Another movie ‘Loveyatri’ whose original title was ‘Loveratri’ also became a controversial’s child. The original name of Aayush Sharma’s (Salman Khan’s brother-in-law) Bollywood debut was Loveratri. But the makers of the film changed its title after some section of the society raise objections about the title, claiming that it made a joke of the Hindu religious festival Navratri. A police complaint was also registered against Salman Khan for making a film that hurt the religious sentiments of people.
Goliyon Ki Raasleela Ram-Leela
Not only that but before Padmaavat, Bhansali had faced hostility to the title of his film ‘Goliyon Ki Raasleela Ram-Leela’, which featured Ranveer Singh and Deepika Padukone in the lead roles. Initially, the movie titled Raamleela. However, the reason for the change of the title comes after the title Raamleela perceived by many filmgoers to be a religious movie, the petition filed against the movie had said.
Apart from a religious voice coming from Hindus, Muslim groups have also not fallen behind and many also raised objections against some of the films.
Bollywood Badshah Shah Rukh Khan’s movie ‘Raees’ was also not spared by some groups. A Shia leader had said the movie’s clip shows Shah Rukh jumping over a Muharram procession carrying a lame mubarak which according to the community is considered as a sign of disrespect. And it was demanded that the makers of the Raees should remove the scenes that had ‘hurt their religious beliefs.
One may wonder why these religious insensitivities have surfaced only in recent times, the same Bollywood had made many films during the 1970s and 1980s that also gives enough space to raise eyebrows in terms of religious depiction.
This 1998-film shows a still in which the actor Dharmendra keeps a pistol inside a Hindu religious holy book Bhagwad Geeta. There was no hue and cry over the scene back then.
Amitabh Bachchan’s Deewar had some scenes that would have evoked the religious sentiments among a few sections of society today over a still in which Bachchan is seen confronting Lord Shiva in a rage.
This Rishi Kapoor starrer shows a scene in which Kapoor gets drunk and visits Muslim Sufi’s mazar. Thankfully, there was no uproar over it.
Now, when we look at these examples, the question arises whether the audiences have progressed or demoted themselves culturally. Interestingly, few Bollywood trade analysts feel that the growing controversy over the title of the movie is nothing but just a way to get more publicity in order to create a buzz among the audiences.
While some film critics feel that this issue has grown due to the growing exposure of social media and few political outfits also try to see vested interest out of such controversies.
Whatever some people say, cinema is for entertainment and should be appreciated as an artform rather than a religious or political football.