What is Bollywood without a steady dose of controversies and protesting, hysterical fanatics threatening to burn down everything if a movie offends them or their beliefs? India is not a stranger to witnessing severe objection to certain types of cinematic content, and sadly, the trend shows no signs of stopping anytime soon.
Indian filmmakers create hundreds of films every year, which either do not get released or lead to controversy, protest, and bans.
There are certain people in our nation who are not very accepting when a thought-provoking film is made. From communities to even the Censor Board, everyone brings their own issues to the table, which we bet, even the makers may have never thought of.
So, here we have a list of 18 films that landed in hot waters because the Indian masses couldn’t digest the content.
Once upon a time, the Indian Censor Board was a tad too sensitive and used to get easily offended (still does). Anything that had to deal with sexuality was considered against principles and ethics (because India is filled with saints!). Conrad Rooks’s ‘Siddhartha’ was about exploring your sexuality and India didn’t approve of it.
1973: ‘Garm Hawa’
© Unit SMM
Based on an unpublished story by an Urdu Writer Ismat Chughtai, ‘Garm Hawa’ takes us back to 1947 when India received Independence and the horror of Partition took place. Tracing the story of a Muslim businessman, the movie shows the complexity he faced after the Partition. Just like every Muslim at the time, he was facing the option of staying back in his homeland or leave with his family to the newly formed Pakistan. This is one of those rare gems that throws light on what the Muslims went through when the British tore the country apart. Fearing possible communal violence and riots, the movie was postponed by eight months.
Considered to be one of the critically acclaimed films, at one point it was banned for the whole tenure of the National Emergency. Wondering what was Sanjeev Kumar and Suchitra Sen’s movie all about? This political drama revolved around a female politician who reminded many of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. Many even claimed that the movie was based on her life and her relationship with her husband. However, the storyline has nothing to do with Gandhi’s life. But, the makers were even asked to remove the scenes where Suchitra was seen smoking and drinking (as if all politicians just drink milk).
1985: ‘Ram Teri Ganga Maili’
The legendary Raj Kapoor often challenged the society and its belief. ‘Ram Teri Ganga Maili’ was one such movie, which was said to have scenes that Bollywood had never witnessed before. In fact, if you watch the Mandakini and Rajiv Kapoor starrer movie, you will be surprised as to why the controversy even began in the first place, because none of the scenes directed were uncomfortable or vulgar.
1994: ‘Bandit Queen’
To pick a subject like this in a country like India requires more than just a thought. What no one could do during the early 90’s, director Shekhar Kapur dared to. Based on the life of Phoolan Devi, one of the most feared woman dacoits in northern India, the movie gives you legit goosebumps. Phoolan, who led a gang of bandits, belonged to a poor low caste family and was married to a man thrice her age. Describing what happened to her isn’t easy. The film showed a hyper use of abusive language, sexual content, and nudity due to which it was criticised. But despite everything, ‘Bandit Queen’ won the National Film Award for Best Feature Film. If you haven’t watched this one, you are missing on something truly big.
© hamilton-Mehta productions
Well, talking about homosexuality is not that big deal in present times, but it was in 1996 when critically acclaimed director Deepa Mehta made ‘Fire’. This is the first installment of the Elements trilogy. Throwing light on a taboo subject in a country like India always has severe effects. When ‘Fire’ was released, posters were burnt, theatres were destroyed because Indians at the time were not ready to deal with a subject that spoke about homosexuality (as if turning a blind eye is the solution). The movie was retracted for a brief time.
1996: ‘Kama Sutra: A Tale Of Love’
© Mirabai Films
Well, we can do it but we don’t like talking about it. India is called the land of Kama Sutra, but how ironic is it that we feel ashamed to even talk about it publicly! If Vatsayana was alive today, he would have loved Meera Nair’s ‘Kama Sutra: A Tale Of Love’. The movie explores love and the sexual equation of four lovers in the 16th century. This film was banned in India because the officials felt that the sexual content was too harsh. How funny, especially when the book is easily accessible for purchase online and offline. The movie apparently went against our ethics and moral. However, around the world, it was praised and acclaimed.
How on Earth can we ever forget this movie? It was a film that made every parent uneasy and as kids it often made us wonder why we couldn’t see it. The steamy-hot scenes between Mallika Sherawat and Emraan Hashmi were clearly too hot to handle for the entire nation.
One lesson that we have learned over time is that one should never ever question religion and its values. This Shiney Ahuja movie was actually based on true events where a Catholic priest was involved with a young woman. Clearly, this wasn’t going to end well. The topic pissed off so many people that no television channel was even ready to promote it.
Deepa Mehta’s movie ‘Water’ (third installment of the Elements trilogy) received massive backlash. The film throws light on the topic of ostracism and misogyny through the lives of widows at an ashram in Varanasi. The protesters were of the opinion that ‘Water’ displayed the country in a bad light, and even before the shooting began, right-wing activists starting issuing death threats and even destroyed the sets. The vandalism was so intense that Mehta had to change her shooting location from Varanasi to Sri Lanka. And that’s not it, she even had to change the entire cast and shoot the film under a pseudo-title, ‘River Moon’.
What happens when you start questioning everything about your existence? Amu is a story about 1984 riots in India where thousands of Sikhs were massacred. People were so against this film that the Censor Board in India took ample of time reviewing it and it was also not approved to be telecast on the television.
2006: ‘The Pink Mirror’
© Solaries Pictures
We bet you haven’t even heard about this film because it never made it to the theatres. ‘The Pink Mirror’ is the first mainstream film that showed two transsexuals in the main lead. Well, we think it was ‘the’ film that could have changed the face of Indian cinema, but our sanskari ‘Censor Board’ had a different perspective. While the masses never got the opportunity to watch it, the film won the Jury Award for Best Feature at the New York LGBT Film Festival and the Best Film of the Festival at Question de Genre in Lille, France. The movie is now available on Netflix but the real question is….if we are ready for another bold film like this?
2007: ‘Black Friday’
‘Black Friday’ was not just a game changer for filmmaker Anurag Kashyap but also for Bollywood. On one hand, when B-town was all about sappy romance, this one talked about the 1993 Mumbai bombings. The movie was suspended by the Bombay High Court until the trial. It took ‘Black Friday’ three more years before we finally got to see it and the wait was worth it. From the Indian media to international scribes, people applauded Kashyap’s vision.
© Lighthouse Company
A heart-wrenching movie, ‘Parzania’ was inspired by the true story of a 10-year-old boy, Azhar Mody who disappeared after the 2002 Gulbarg Society massacre. Yes, it’s that same carnage where 69 people were killed for no fault but just out of sheer hatred. This is one of the many incidents which led to the Gujarat riots. When ‘Parzania; was released, the cinema owners in Gujarat threatened to boycott its screening, which led to an unofficial ban in Gujarat.
© PVR Pictures
What happens when a man in 60’s falls in love with a teenager? Simple. Protests. Because it’s just against our values. An adaptation of the classic novel ‘Lolita’, the movie caused massive protest in Allahabad.
2010: ‘Inshallah, Football’
© Alipur Films
While ‘Inshallah, Football’ was praised by the critics it never got the green light from the Indian authorities for its release. Why? This is a documentary film about a young boy from Kashmir whose ambition is to become a footballer. But what’s his fault? He lives in military conflicted Kashmir. He is talented, has what it takes but everything comes to an end when he couldn’t travel out of the country because his father is an alleged militant. Those who have seen this movie believed the makers showcased the reality of violence, but the authorities felt the film was critical about the political tension in Kashmir and how the Indian military operated there.
2015: ‘India’s Daughter’
The movie was based on the brutal Nirbhaya rape case that still gives us chills. Directed by British filmmaker Leslee Udwin, the documentary takes you back to the 2012 Delhi gang rape and murder of 23-year-old student Jyoti Singh. The film also has Mukesh Singh, the accused convict, who talks about why he committed the crime and how he felt about it. ‘India’s Daughter’ was banned in India for some time because of the rapist’s views on how he discriminates and understands the two genders portrayed India in a negative light. This one will give you sleepless nights, as it’s so painful to witness what happened.
© SLB Films
Do we even need to start talking about the controversy that followed ‘Padmaavat’? From Bhansali being assaulted to the protestors giving death threats to even a bounty being announced on Deepika Padukone’s head, the right-wing groups did everything one could think of. Based on the famous legend of Rani Padmavati, the film talks about her beauty and then Delhi ruler Alauddin Khilji’s obsession with her beauty. The communities felt that the film misrepresents and sabotages history. The Rajputs were against the release of the film. After months of struggle, the movie finally released this year and was loved by the viewers.