The Mayor of Kathmandu, Balendra Shah, on June 18 ordered all cinema halls in the Nepalese capital to stop screening of all Bollywood films. The order came three days after Mr. Shah gave an ultimatum to the Indian makers of the film Adipurush urging them to delete a portion where a dialogue refers to Sita as the “daughter of India”.
Mr. Shah has described the dialogue as misleading as Sita is believed to have been the daughter of King Janak of Janakpur. The controversy in Nepal is the latest to hit the film which has been in the eye of a controversy over controversial dialogue.
“Three days ago we had called upon the makers of Adipurush to remove the objectionable section that shows Janaki as an Indian woman. Defence of Nepal’s sovereignty, independence, and self-respect is the first duty of all Nepalese governments, non-governmental organisations and Nepalese citizens. No Indian film will be allowed to be screened in the Kathmandu municipality area till the time this objectionable part is removed from the film,” said Mr. Shah.
Nepal prides itself on its connection to Sita, the female protagonist of the epic Ramayana. Janakpur in Nepal is believed to be the home of Sita where her father King Janak had his kingdom. Because of her roots, Sita is also known as Janaki, the daughter of Janak. The issue has added to the list of disputes that Nepal has had in recent years with India beginning with the Kalapani territorial dispute that the two sides are yet to resolve. This is the second controversy to hit bilateral relations since May 28 when the mural of Akhand Bharat in the new Parliament of India was criticised by Nepalese leaders as it depicted Lumbini, the place of birth of Gautama, the Buddha, as part of ancient Indian landmass.
Controversy over Indian films in Nepal is not new despite the fact that several leading names of Bollywood such as Manisha Koirala and singer Udit Narayan have roots in Nepal and are often seen as cultural ambassadors between the two countries. In 2000, riots and protests had broken out in Nepal over reported anti-Nepal comments by film actor Hrithik Roshan who was at that time at the peak of his popularity. Mr. Roshan later denied making those comments. But for a considerable period of time, Nepal’s ties with Bollywood were strained because of that controversy.
Nepal considers both Lumbini and Janakpur as integral to its identity as the two places are closely associated with history and myths of the Nepal-India culture covering both Hindu and Buddhist faiths.