Reality Check

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By The Telegraph Online
  • Published 18.06.08

Art imitates life. and cinema and television stop at nothing to depict real life on reel, often courting controversy. A t2 list…

The Noida double murder case

After consistently making the headlines over the past month, the Aarushi Talwar murder case was almost on the verge of becoming a har ghar ki kahaani. Last week, the hugely controversial Noida double murder case found itself in the middle of yet another controversy, when the Talwar family petitioned the information and broadcasting ministry to stop Ekta Kapoor’s Balaji Telefilms from reconstructing events leading to the murder of the 14-year-old girl in its soap opera Kahaani Ghar Ghar Kii. Balaji insisted that the episode — in which the young protagonist falls prey to ‘honour killing’ by her family — was “in no way related to the Aarushi case”, but government intervention forced the production house to back off... for now, at least.

Fahrenheit 9/11

It may have won the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival, but Michael Moore’s scathing documentary on the September 11 terrorist attacks and the Bush family’s dealings in the Middle East raised a number of eyebrows. The 2004 film which critiqued America’s war on terror in Iraq and Afghanistan and the media’s subsequent reporting of the attack, came at a time when the political winds in the United States were changing direction, with the Bush administration running into more and more opposition.

While the film’s contents were clearly out to prove a point (one that many were willing to subscribe to), was it biased to the point of telling lies? It doesn’t matter. It was a movie worth watching — and making.

The Passion Of The Christ

When actor-director Mel Gibson made a film on the last hours of Christ’s life culminating in his brutal death, no major Hollywood studio was willing to touch the graphic, violent and highly controversial project. Accusations of anti-Semitism were hurled at The Passion Of The Christ, with Jews worldwide protesting against its contents. Gibson insisted on more than one occasion that his film wasn’t meant to insult anyone but to present the facts in as “truthful a manner as possible”.

The film did not go down well with some members of the Christian community either, with groups alleging that it made too many departures from the teachings of the New Testament.

The Scarlet Keeling murder case

Bollywood has always believed in borrowing generously from real-life situations (the stickier the better). So it comes as no surprise that it has been quick to latch on to the mysterious murder of Scarlett Keeling, the shoddy handling of which had left the police and then the government red-faced, marring Goa’s reputation as a tourist haven. Katrina Kaif, it has been said, is working furiously to adjust her dates to play the central role of the British teenager (!). Director Prabhakar Shukla has apparently finished scripting the film and is all set to meet Scarlett’s mother Fiona MacKeown soon.

“Scarlett’s story has all the elements of a perfect Bollywood film — drama, suspense and action,” says Shukla. Scarlett’s family, however, has expressed its reservations about the proposed film, fearing it would portray her in poor light. “It’s far too soon to be thinking about a film on Scarlett’s life,” feels Fiona.

Black Friday

Controversy seems to be movie maker Anurag Kashyap’s middle name. If Paanch — based on the 1976 Joshi-Abhyankar murders in Pune — is yet to make it past the censor board, Black Friday finally made it to the theatres in early 2007, after being entangled in one controversy after another. Many religious and fundamentalist groups sought a ban on the film (based on S. Hussain Zaidi’s book on the aftermath of the 1993 serial blasts in Mumbai), fearing that its screening would incite communal violence. With Bombay High Court clearing it after years of being stuck in the cans, Black Friday was released to critical acclaim.

Jodhaa Akbar

Ashutosh Gowariker’s 2008 magnum opus about a romance between the Mughal emperor Akbar and the Rajput princess Jodhaa was not released in Rajasthan due to its content. Many, including historians and scholars, felt that the film was not true to history, most significantly that Jodhaa was not Akbar’s wife but his daughter-in-law, with whatever evidence available about her indicating that she was married to Jehangir.

Gowariker insisted that the undocumented romance was not a figment of his imagination and was in fact a part of traditional folklore. Most movie-goers didn’t care about fact or fiction — they just went to see Hrithik romance Ash.