In my opinion Indian censor board — and to an extent Indian people — has limited the imagination and has restricted the leverage of creative liberties. India is a land of diverse cultures and traditions and it takes no more than a single scene or single line of dialogue to incinerate a considerable faction of people. The societal problems that India faces also hinder the approach and the boldness of film makers. The effort to do so has always kept many of the Indian movies muddled in the midst of controversy and criticism. The hypocritical society which only limits itself to preaching should also start practicing. It is this limitation that has prevented Indian cinema from really growing. The film certification board’s stubbornness to accept change and the retrograde audience has left us in dire state and exasperated. We at Cinemaholic decided to cite some of these talked about events and prepare a list of the most controversial Bollywood movies made.
17. Haider (2014)
There exists a long standing feud between India and Pakistan over Kashmir. The tacit acts of bravado and defence have left the citizens of the state hanging in between. Vishal bhardwaj’s ‘Haider’ is a visceral documentation of one such troubled resident. It traverses Haider’s journey from being a literature student to arming himself with guns and chanting anti Indian slogans. The film courted controversy tackling these issues head on in the sprawling scenery of Kashmir through expertly written characters. Burning effigies and posters soon followed. Shahid Kapoor gives a career best being ably supported by a stellar ensemble. A must watch if you haven’t already.
16. Madras Cafe (2013)
Another intelligently made piece of cinema was marred in controversies owing to the touchy subject matter. The war drama revolved Around The Assassination of the then prime minister Rajiv Gandhi and India’s interventions in the Sri Lankan civil war. Divulging the anarchist organization in power and the persecution of Tamil Muslims the film is a winner all the way through. Alas the movie couldn’t be salvaged by the subject matter and the controversy brought it further down, evoking protests in South India.
15. Water (2005)
Even the widow remarriage is apparently a non-existent social evil, reactions to Deepa Mehta water told another story altogether. Capturing the simple and tormented life of a window in an Ashram water proved to be one of the best films coming out of India. Mehta’s brazen approach and a well written script gave us an eviscerating emotional drama and food for thought. It apparently irked the Hindu community in the country and compelled them to burn the films posters on the ghats. Activist Arun Pathak even organized a protest, fasting unto death to bring the film down from the theaters.
Vishwaroopam was scheduled to release in about 500 screens in Tamil Nadu, but the film was removed from screens by district collectors across the state, due to sustained protests by Muslim civic organisations. But that was not the only controversy the film found itself in. When Kamal Haasan announced a Direct-To-Home premiere of the film, theatre owners demanded a rollback of this plan, as they feared major revenue losses to DTH service providers. Threatened by a complete exhibitor boycott of Vishwaroopam, Haasan agreed to release the film first in theatres.
13. Julie (1975)
Premarital pregnancy put simply is a joke in India as it is considered a social taboos and even talking about is asserted a sin. Amalgamate that with inter caste marriages and you have a controversy on your hands. The aforementioned were the reasons for Julie’s unsuccessful run at the box office. It got through the board with dogmatic cuts and was unflinchingly abandoned by an indignant audience.
12. Gangs of Wasseypur (2014)
Anurag Kashyap and controversies go hand in hand. Yes, this is one of the best Bollywood films I have ever seen. The language, the visuals, and the moaning became the three primary objectionable reasons. Well, the moaning not so much. Kashyap yet again was at loggerheads with the censor board, and miraculously managed to come unscathed, with an Adult certificate and cuts. Some have claimed that he later released the movie slyly on internet without any cuts, deeming it a leak.
11. Nishabd (2007)
People often say that age is just a number well, I have just one phrase for them: preach and practice. The hypocritical society unabashedly criticized and cursed the film, loosely based on ‘American Beauty’ and ‘Anokha Rishta’. Starring Amitabh Bachchan and Jia Khan in leading roles, the plot focuses on the unexpected love that blossoms between their characters. Vijay (Bachchan), a photographer, shares mutual affinity towards Jia (Khan), a friend of his daughter. Things start expediting when Vijay catches unawares Jia and photographs her when she hoses herself with water. The tacit relationship doesn’t sit well with their close ones, and apparently it didn’t with the audiences either. Banned at certain places, it embarrassment is the nation’s embarrassment.
10. The Dirty Picture (2013)
VIdya Balan sent shockwaves when her look from the film came out. Visibly curvier, the low cut blouses and the smoldering expressions certainly caught everyones eyes. It also brought negative attention to the film, with people opiniating the film being “disrespectful” to women. A recreation of certain parts of Silk Smitha’s life, ‘The Dirty Picture’ was a bold effort. Far from being an art film, it was still an aberration from the common norms, and had to face the repercussions for the same. First getting banned by the film board (like that would surprise us), and then being the defendants in a lawsuit filed by Silk’s brothers.
9. Ae Dil Hei Mushkil (2016)
The movie is one of the fresher controversies in Bollywood. The objection from a faction of the communities came due to the presence of a Pakistani artist in the film. The controversy had the Uri terrorist attacks in the background, which outraged the citizens, who demanded all Pakistani actors in the country be thrown out. The self-assumed patriots threatened with assault and much more, which was unsuccessful in deterring producer Karan Johar’s strong will. It released and became a hit, loved by audiences and critics alike.
8. Kama Sutra: A Tale of Love
Do I need to write anything?
7. Aandhi (1975)
Now this one is a bit obscure. One of Gulzar’s best work, the 1975 political-drama was loosely based on the then PM of India, Indira Gandhi’s life. The apparition that it was brought trouble for the movie, which was instantly banned. More so because of the emergency, it was only able to release once the Janata Party came into power. It featured career defining performances from Sumitra Sen, and the prodigal Sanjeev Kapoor. Do see this one.
6. PK (2014)
Aamir Khan has been the target of political agendas in the past. The issue augmented on stature, when the first poster of the film was revealed. Khan’s bare essentials, with the thing-a-ding (Friends reference) covered by a transistor, caused an uproar with God knows what faction of people. Then came the storm, which brought the charges of sedition and persecution to Khan. The Hindu community apparently felt insulted and accused him of blasphemous crimes. Lawsuits, burning effigies, and impending threats of assault. That is what you get when you tell the truth.
5. Aarakshan (2011)
For every Indian reading this, it shouldn’t be a surprise. A.k.a. reservations, the film became the talk out of the town, just with its title. Many pointed out it being politically driven, spreading communist propagandas. Some took to the fact that it juxtaposed the subject matter and blew it out of proportion. The stellar cast kept defending the film, but to no avail, as it was banned in three states. God knows what will set off people today.
4. Lipstick Under My Burkha (2017)
The latest entrant, which finally got a release date, had vague reasons for people to be upset. After all, Indians do take insult in their pride when people opinionate. The CBFC banned the film (sigh), deeming it too “lady oriented” in content, and being laced with sexual scenes and abusive language. There were some smithereens who objected the use of word “burkha”, and felt it was sacrilegious. However, defining all odds, the film finally received certification, six months after hard battle with the board. The new poster certainly is amusing and a sly dig at them. Do see it!
3. Black Friday (2004)
The movie was banned for two years when it was released. Correction: not released. Based on the Mumbai blasts of 1993, the film suffered because of the case still being quagmire in judicial proceedings. Detractors felt that it could influence the decision for the bad, and hence decided to stall the release. Eventually when it did, it quickly became one of the most liked films on terrorism. The brilliant camera work and the intricate setting of a layered plot worked wonders for the film. Kashyap yet again managed to surprise us, a pleasant one for that sake.
2. Fire (1996)
‘Fire’ was one of the first Bollywood films to explicitly show homosexual relations. Initially, it was passed uncut by India’s censor board with a rating of Adult. The film was first screened and ran to full houses in most metropolitan cities throughout India for almost three weeks. But soon, the protestors started vandalizing theaters across the country demanding the film to be taken off the theaters. The film was then referred back to the Censor Board for a re-examination. The Indian government was criticised for siding with the vandals. ‘Fire’ remains of the most controversial films ever made in India.
1. Bandit Queen (1994)
Undoubtedly, the most controversial Bollywood movie ever. Directed by the mercurial Shekhar Kapur, the movie is a biopic of the notorious gang leader Phoolan Devi. It traverses her rise from the nadir of life, the acme of the illegal profession she was compelled to choose. The movie became disputed due to the brazen nude scenes featuring Seema Biswas, the rape scene again involving her, and the cusses filled dialogues. It eventually released, with almost half the film cut. Still we loved it. Imagine if the full movie had been released. *goosebumps*
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