MY KOLKATA EDUGRAPH
ADVERTISEMENT
regular-article-logo Monday, 24 June 2024

Banned it cooin’

As predicted, much like The Kashmir Files, which had sparked off much controversy, The Kerala Story too is a blockbuster that has brought back the debate over bans and boycott

Bharathi S. Pradhan Published 21.05.23, 06:03 AM
Anurag Kashyap’s Black Friday went unnoticed by the time it went through court battles and reached the theatres

Anurag Kashyap’s Black Friday went unnoticed by the time it went through court battles and reached the theatres File Picture

Among many other messages, Karnataka has also reiterated that box office has no equation with ballot box. The Kerala Story (TKS) had a smooth run in the state with no incidents of communal violence and chests got a chance to puff up when the PM wove the film into his electoral speech. But did any of it translate into a mighty victory for the incumbent state government?

Therefore, the Supreme Court verdict on the banning of TKS should also not be read as a step forward for the BJP or as a setback for the TMC.

ADVERTISEMENT

Even as producer Vipul Shah’s press conference went on in Mumbai on Wednesday, and he introduced 26 girls from Kerala who had experienced the three stages of religious brainwashing (confusion, criticism, conversion), his team had assessed its chances at the Supreme Court and planned a media meet in Calcutta for Friday.

But it’s not just about courts and theatres. International chains like the Marriott didn’t permit TKS to hold its meeting on their property in Mumbai. Vipul, wearing a jacket that curiously read “Maintenance”, had to settle for Rangsharda, a three-star hotel with an unsophistica-ted auditorium.

As predicted, much like The Kashmir Files, which had sparked off much controversy but was commercially unstoppable, TKS too is a blockbuster that has brought back the debate over bans and boycotts. Shabana Azmi put out a statement that she didn’t support the ban on TKS but added a specious rider to it by questioning the boycott of Pathaan. But are bans and boycotts synonymous? One may not endorse the call against Brahmastra based on Ranbir Kapoor’s penchant for beef or against Pathaan because of the colour of Deepika Padukone’s bikini. But a boycott gives one the freedom to choose between patronising an event and staying away from it while a ban takes away the freedom of choice from the consumer. The apex court was, therefore, right in putting a stay on the ban in Bengal.

But the crude Hindi saying “Hamaam mein sab nange hain” was quoted by many to show that freedom of expression has been compromised by parties of all ideologies and people of diverse faiths. In the vast public bathtub (hamaam) of politics and religion, everybody stands exposed. It would include the UK too, which dragged its feet to certify TKS, perhaps wary of offending the grooming gang out there.

Aamir Khan’s Fanaa (2006), which was not released in Gujarat because of the actor’s anti-Narmada stance, and Parzania (2007) on the Gujarat riots of 2002 have been cited as instances of a Modi-led state banning films. But there was a difference in the smart fine print. Exhibitors had decided not to release Fanaa and Parzania in Gujarat; the films were never officially banned by the state government.

It brings us to the question, do bans impact the collections of a film? Bandit Queen, Shekhar Kapur’s 1994 film on Phoolan Devi, had opened feistily. But it sank when re-released after a ban by the Delhi High Court was lifted. Similarly, Anurag Kashyap’s Black Friday (2004) on the 1993 bomb blasts went unnoticed by the time it went through court battles and reached the theatres in 2007.

OTOH, Gulzar’s Aandhi (1975), banned for resembling Indira Gandhi’s personal life, was applauded when released in 1977. But Kissa Kursi Ka, starring Rehana Sultan, became a standalone case when negatives of the film were burnt during Emergency. When the political climate changed, Shabana Azmi replaced Rehana and the film was remade from scratch. But, despite all the noise around it, the new version in 1978 saw empty theatres.

So, another takeaway is that controversy does not always translate into collections. Awash with nudity, Vinod Pande’s Sins had starred Shiney Ahuja as a Kerala priest sentenced to death for sexual harassment and murder. A miffed Catholic community had taken the film to court. Sins did get a reprieve but didn’t create a ripple.

A last observation: The Kashmir Files did not trigger a single communal riot anywhere. Cinema does not create law and order problems. Politics does.

Bharathi S. Pradhan is a senior journalist and author

Follow us on:
ADVERTISEMENT