It happened in 2006 when Aamir Khan's film Fanaa was up for release; ditto for The Da Vinci Code , Rahul Dholakia's Parzania (2007), and Hrithik-Aishwarya starrer Jodhaa Akbar (2008). The link is obvious — widespread protests and unofficial bans in the name of politics, social beliefs or religious sentiments.
In the eye of the storm at present is My Name Is Khan (MNIK) , a film that brings together the Karan-Kajol-Shah Rukh trio after nine long years.
For SRK, it has been a dry run at the box-office after Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi in 2008 while rival Aamir has moved ahead by leaps and bounds. Karan's last directorial venture Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna didn't do as well as expected, and Kajol too is returning after a four-year hiatus. Needless to say, each of them is wishing this to be a record-smashing hit. But, controversy has struck.
SRK recently decided to speak up for the Pakistani players who were not picked up by any of the teams for the Indian Premier League, one of which SRK owns. He didn't pick up any player from across the border either, but opined that they should have been included. Shiv Sena (SS) and its offshoot Maharashtra Nava Nirman Sena (MNS) were up in arms, and the former threatened to go on a rampage if the film was shown in Maharashtra, unless SRK apologised. The move evoked empathy among millions of SRK fans. But trade circles have touted MNIK as the biggest film of the year even before its release!
A number of films have faced similar protests and threats of bans. Here's a look at some such movies.
Jo Bole So Nihal(2005)
The Shiromani Gurdwara Prabhandak Committee, the highest religious authority of Sikhism, demanded a blanket ban on the film, saying the Sunny Deol-starrer did injustice to the image of the Sikhs. It was withdrawn from Punjab, Haryana and Chandigarh.
The Da Vinci Code(2006)
Let's be fair to world cinema we said, and decided to protest even against this Hollywood film! Seven states, including Nagaland, Punjab, Goa and Andhra Pradesh, banned it contending that it showed Christianity in poor light.
Fanaa (2006) and Taare Zameen Par (2007)
Aamir Khan was keenly into social activism around 2006. The actor had given his wholehearted support to Medha Patkar of the Narmada Bachao Andolan. Multiplexes decided to ban Aamir's films in the State. Fanaa's profits took a hit due to the no-show in Gujarat, and the only single screen theatre that showed the film with heavy security had to withdraw it, as there was a self-immolation bid. When later released on satellite TV, Fanaa reportedly showed highest viewership in Gujarat. As for Taare Zameen Par , it was released in the controversy-hit State, after initial hiccups.
A heart-rending real-life story about a Parsi family that gets embroiled in the Hindu-Muslim post-Godhra riots in Gujarat, Parzania made waves internationally, but angry protests and unofficial bans marked its release in Gujarat.
The film bore the brunt of the protestors, and was never screened there.
The Republican Party of India and the National Commission for Scheduled Castes took serious objection to a line in a song. The line was deleted, but the film, which marked Madhuri Dixit's comeback, flopped.
Who was Jodhaa? Was she Akbar's wife or daughter-in-law? Serious questions, indeed. The film was banned in Madhya Pradesh after protests by the Rajput community, which claimed that the film distorted historical facts.
The MNS had just been formed and had seized the opportunity to bash the North Indians, stating that only Marathi-speaking people would be tolerated in the State. Jaya Bachchan went ahead and commented that she would speak in Hindi. (Point to note — Jaya is actually from Kolkata and married to a UP-ite!). Raj Thackeray threatened to ban the entire Bachchan family and their films from the State. The situation was brought under control by saying she was misinterpreted, and Drona was released. The film flopped.
An MNS backlash was expected as it espoused the cause of North Indians, and had ‘provocative' dialogues. After a two-month ban in Maharashtra, the film was released.