‘Kaali’ movie poster: From ‘Samrat Prithviraj’ to ‘Aashram’, movies and web series that triggered controversies

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A poster for a documentary directed by filmmaker Leena Manimekalai has drawn flak on social media for hurting religious sentiments with the depiction of Goddess Kali.

The Madurai-born, Toronto-based filmmaker had earlier taken to Twitter to share a poster of her film which depicted a woman dressed in a costume portraying the goddess and smoking. A flag of the LGBT community is seen in the background.

There have been many such movies and web series in recent and past which have triggered massive controversies either on the lines of culture, facts or other aspects.

Here’s a look at some of the movies/web series which have courted controversies:

Samrat Prithviraj:

Largely based on medieval poet Chand Bardai’s epic poem Prithviraj Raso, the period drama sees Akshay Kumar playing the erstwhile king of Ajmer with former Miss World Manushi Chhillar as Sanyogita. Written and directed by Chanakya-fame Chandraprakash Dwivedi, the film’s research took him about six months to check every single fact multiple times, he said in a report by The Indian Express.

The historical action drama courted controversy as Rajput and Gurjar communities laid claim to the king’s caste. Akhil Bharatiya Veer Gurjar Mahasabha said that Prithviraj was a Gurjar and therefore he should be presented in the film not as a Rajput, but as a Gurjar.

The Mahasabha also said that they will not allow the release of the film if Prithviraj is presented as a Rajput.

On the other side, the Karni Sena, which represents the Rajput community, also demanded a title change for the film. Karni Sena wanted the makers to name the film, ‘Samrat Prithviraj Chauhan’.

In December last year, protests broke out in Rajasthan’s Ajmer as some representatives of the Gurjar community threatened to stop the screening of the film if they don’t remove the term ‘Rajput’ from it.

Prithviraj also stars Sanjay Dutt, Sonu Sood, Manav Vij, Ashutosh Rana, Sakshi Tanwar, and Lalit Tiwari.

Brahmastra:

Brahmastra which is filmmaker Ayan Mukherji’s magnum opus, finds its roots in the Hindu mythology and Ranbir Kapoor has been shown playing the lead Shiva, a DJ who can harness the power of one the mighty astras, which are the weapons of gods.

The project has been hailed for building a fantasy universe based on Indian mythology but a few fans were left disappoint after having minutely watch every frame in the trailer. In Ranbir’s introductory scenes show in the trailer, some netizens spotted how the character was seen sporting shoes in a temple premises.

Twitter users didn’t fail in registering their disappointment over the fact after the trailer was released after long wait of five years. While a few of these disappointed users agreed that the Brahmastra trailer was good, a few refused to accept the film entirely after discovering this one shot of Ranbir from the trailer where he’s ringing the temple bell with shoes on.

One basic etiquette, which every Hindu knows is that you don’t enter the temple with shoes on your feet.

The film also features Alia Bhatt, Amitabh Bachchan and Nagarjuna in key roles. Shah Rukh Khan is also confirmed to be part of the project in an extended cameo and is reportedly playing a scientist.

Gangubai Kathiawadi:

Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s, Gangubai Kathiawadi, starring Alia Bhatt in the titular role, had its world premiere at the Berlin Film Festival 2022. The film is based on the life of Gangubai Kathewali, a brothel owner in Mumbai’s Kamathipura area.

A controversial but formidable figure in the 1960s, Gangubai’s story was documented by author and journalist S Hussain Zaidi in his book Mafia Queens Of Mumbai

In his book, Zaidi accounts that Gangubai was known to be under the protection of Mumbai mafia don Karim Lala. It is said that she even tied a rakhi on Karim Lala’s wrist after he promised to protect her from one of his goons who had raped Gangubai twice.

Gangubai reportedly passed away in the mid ’70s, and did not have children of her own. There are however several individuals who claim they were adopted by her.

A number of them have objected to her portrayal as a prostitute in the film, and sought a stay on its release.

Advocate Narendra Dubey, who is fighting the case on behalf of Gangubai’s adopted children, stated that the woman was a social worker who fought for the rights of prostitutes. He also asserted political leaders such as Jawaharlal Nehru, Morarji Desai, and Atal Bihari Vajpayee used to visit her home during elections, as per a report in Hindustan Times.

Released in May last year, it was produced by Bollywood actress Anushka Sharma.

Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee president Manjinder Singh Sirsa had shared his concern about the depiction of Sikh characters in the series, which starred Jaideep Ahlawat, Neeraj Kabi, Ishwak Singh and Abhishek Bannerjee. He had especially objected to a scene where a Sikh man was shown to be raping a woman while another Sikh man watched.

Indra Hang Subba, MP from Sikkim, had written to Information and Broadcasting Minister Prakash Javadekar over the sdefxist slur used by one of the characters on the show. His complaint said that more than 10.5 million people in India speak Nepali and they were deeply affected by the incident. The Bharatiya Gorkha Yuva Parisangh, the youth wing of Bharatiya Gorkha Parisangh, had also objected to the slur.

Ashram:

The series has revived actor Bobby Deol’s career, but in November director Prakash Jha was served legal notice for allegedly hurting Hindu sentiments.

The legal notice was sent to the OTT platform MX Player, which streams the show, as well as Jha, on the ground that was “directly targeting the ancient tradition, custom, culture of Hindu, Ashramas Dharma”.

The notice was sent by Surjeet Singh, Pradesh Sangathan Mahamantri of Karni Sena. Then, in December a court in Jodhpur issued notice to Jha and Deol in a case filed against the web series. Advocate Khush Khandelwal had said he had moved the court against Jha’s web series in which Deol plays a fraud godman, and Hindu gurus have been shown as rapists and drug traffickers.

Padmaavat:

The controversies surrounding this film are still talked about. One of the biggest period films in Deepika Padukone’s career graph, the film was initially titled ‘Padmavati’. Sentiments of certain religious communities in Rajasthan were hurt and they were against the portrayal of history being depicted in the trailer of the Sanjay Leela Bhansali directorial.

There was a bounty put on the lead actress as well as the director. Death threats were passed and it was all fuelled by the presumption of apparent tarnishing of history.

Jodha Akbar:

Historical films are often ridiculed because they deviate from accuracy. Jodhaa Akbar, though a visual spectacle and one of the greatest blockbusters of all time, faced a lot of backlash. Said to have hurt Rajput sentiments, this Ashutosh Gowariker directorial was said to have deviated a lot from history, So much so, the film was banned from releasing in Rajasthan, UP, Haryana & Uttarakhand, Later as the steam seemed to cool down, the ban was lifted.