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Stars, Film promotions and controversies

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Film promotions are getting weirder by the day, not to mention lacking imagination. Stars and their PR departments usually follow a routine to promote films. Sometimes, they also indulge in creating controversy. But controversies, either created as a part of film promotion or due to outer forces, more often than not backfire.

Film promotion teams devise various ways to bring or keep a film in the limelight. Often, court cases are filed over trivial issues related to a film, like its name, poster, lyrics, copyrights or even the theme of a film. Such cases are usually filed from some remote, unknown small towns, and in most cases by an obscure lawyer to gain fame. On many occasions this is done as proxy by the very producer who seeks media space. But this trend has outlived its utility. The law has become wiser on such petitions.

If one talks of controversy over the title of a film, “Padmaavat” (2018) is a fresh example where a community objected to the depiction of their revered queen of Padmavati. She is an icon of the community besides, of course, and they had objections over the film itself.

The law says that once a film is cleared by the Central Board of Film Certification, nobody can object to it. However, the district magistrate of a certain district enjoys the right to stop the screening of a film if he thinks it will disturb the peace in his area. This has to be on religious ground or on the basis of harming sentiments in any other way. But, this law is ineffective when a community or a populace resorts to mob mentality and takes the law in their hand, as it happened in the case of “Padmaavat”. The film’s release was delayed. In some states, the delay was so much that, by the time it releases it had lost its momentum. Else, the film would have done even better.

There was a controversy before the release of Amitabh Bachchan’s film “Shahenshah” (1988), too. The Bofors guns controversy had hit the headlines and Bachchan’s name was dragged in. People were curious, more so because the whole nation had prayed for his recovery following the onset injury in 1981 during the shooting of “Coolie”. The same lot which put him on high pedestal now wanted to pull him down. The film’s posters were blackened with ink.

The release of “Shahenshah” (1988) had to be delayed. As a trial run, a film titled “Kaun Jeeta Kuan Haara”, in which Bachchan played a guest role, was released a few months before “Shahenshah”. Tempers were running high and, finally, theatres screening “Shahenshah” had to be given police protection.

Another film that needed police protection at the cinema halls was Aamir Khan’s “PK”. The word spread that it demeaned Hindu gods. As it happened eventually, people were enjoying the film and it went on to become a major hit.

But the Aamir Khan film that suffered the most was “Fanaa” (2006). Maybe it was to promote the film or maybe he really cared for those who were being displaced due to the construction of the Sardar Sarovar Dam on the Narmada, but Aamir Khan joined forces with an activist Medha Patkar, who was leading a movement against the dam for over three decades.

One is not sure how Aamir suddenly woke up to the Narmada issue. But the people of Gujarat, who had been hoping for the dam to come up for years were angry. Initially there were protests at many places but in Gujarat the film remained unreleased.

In early 1990s, the film that had to suffer due to a controversy was Shekhar Kapur’s “Bandit Queen”. The film was based on the book “India’s Bandit Queen: The True Story Of Phoolan Devi” by Mala Sen, with a claim to be the true story of the notorious female bandit, Phoolan Devi.

Shah Rukh Khan’s “My Name Is Khan” (2010) had its share of troubles as the Shiv Sena tried to stall the film’s release. The controversy started when the Indian Premier League (IPL) body decided not to include cricketers from Pakistan in the League. Khan, who owns the IPL team Kolkata Knight Riders, advocated the inclusion of Pakistani players in IPL . That irked the Shiv Sena. As a result of Sena protests, some cinemas did cancel the screening of the film, though at other cinemas, the film was released under heavy police bandobast.

There are many such controversies related to films. And, strangely enough, they happen just when a film is due for release.

This brings to the various controversies woven around “Chhapaak”. The film is about an acid attack survivor from Delhi, Laxmi Agarwal. Movie buffs don’t usually like such sordid stories told graphically on screen, because they go to the cinema to be entertained.

It all started with a story writer, Rakesh Bharti, taking the legal route to claim the film’s story was his concept. Claiming credit for a story has happened with umpteen number of films, when somebody, out of the blue, files such a case. Then, suddenly, Deepika Padukone springs a surprise by dropping in at the JNU campus, posing with protesters involved in the violent CAB protests with folded hands but saying nothing, either way.

Then, the rumours were spread that the name of the culprit who threw acid at Laxmi had been changed from the original Muslim to a Hindu name. Really, cocky! No such thing.

Finally, the lawyer who fought for Laxmi in real life decided to sue the makers of “Chhapaak” for not giving enough credit to Laxmi.

In the era of social media, this act of her has been a trending topic. Unfortunately, it is Deepika and her act that is trending, not the film that needed the publicity! Deepika’s JNU trip has been rewarded by the governments of Madhya Pradeh and Chhattisgaarh. However, tax exemptions don’t mean much since cinema admission rates come under GST, unlike earlier when it was a state subject. (IANS)

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