Bollywood movies and controversies go hand-in-hand on several occasions. Majority of the times, it did dent the box office outcome, while in some other situations, the controversy helped the movie to gather the initial momentum at the ticket windows. Be it Shah Rukh Khan’s My Name Is Khan, Shahid Kapoor’s Udta Punjab or Ranveer Singh’s Padmaavat, all these outings undeniably benefitted from the controversies surrounding them. Now, the latest addition is Vivek Oberoi’s PM Narendra Modi, witnessing the same fate.
Let’s take a look at some major movies, which were actually benefitted by the controversies:
My Name Is Khan (2010)
This Karan Johar directorial is one of the most loved and appreciated Indian drama, but it never started good for the movie, making headlines during the promotional spree. To start with, Shah Rukh Khan’s detainment at Newark airport gathered much hoopla. Before the release, Khan, who is involved with Indian Premier League as a co-owner of Kolkata Knight Riders, stated that Pakistani players should be allowed to participate in the celebrated Cricket league. In the aftermath of the 2008 terrorist attacks in Mumbai, the lines spoke by the actor didn’t go down well with most and Shivsena (Right-wing political party of Maharashtra) threatened to block the release of the movie. Though My Name is Khan was really a well made affair, it did generate awareness amongst the cinegoers due to all such ill reasons. Upon its release, several theatres in Mumbai were attacked by the party workers but the situation got settled after state government guaranteed the security for the screening.
Bajirao Mastani (2015)
Bajirao Mastani was the historical love story of Maratha Peshwa Bajirao I (played by Ranveer Singh) and Mastani (played by Deepika Padukone). It also featured Priyanka Chopra as Kashibai, who was the first wife of Peshwa Bajirao I. The petition was filed on Pinga song featuring the folk dance of Deepika and Priyanka, by terming it as offensive. According to the petitioner, Kashibai was bed-ridden for most of her life due to arthritis-like condition, hence proving the dance between Kashibai and Mastani to be fictional. Also, few right-wing political outfits threatened the makers over a few romantic scenes. Another song Malhari, received a huge backlash due to Ranveer’s dance and few absurd words, which were said to be defamatory to Maratha culture. Due to such reasons, Bajirao Mastani gathered an unintentional heat in the promotions.
Udta Punjab (2016)
The controversy of Udta Punjab was altogether a different story, which could be best described as a war between the makers and Central Board Of Film Certification. The infamous chairman of the board, Pahlaj Nihalani suggested several cuts of scenes and abusive words for the movie but co-producer Anurag Kashyap denied it by stating that it would affect the overall outcome, as Udta Punjab dealt with the rising issue of drug abuse in Punjab state. Also, it was rumoured that the political party in power, pressurized the censor as it projected their political ally of the state in bad lights. This chaos around the Abhishek Chaubey directorial, boosted a huge curiosity around the movie and helped it open well at the box office.
The movie marks one of the biggest controversy in Bollywood ever. Right from the title Padmavati (later changed to Padmaavat) to the claim of presenting Rajput queen, Padmavati, in a bad light, this Sanjay Leela Bhansali directorial was slammed by several. Also, some of them claimed that the movie glamorised Alauddin Khilji and consists of intimate scenes of queen, thus hurting the sentiments of the Mewar community. Even the sets and crew of Padmaavat including Bhansali were attacked and threatened by Karni Sena (religious organisation). Initially, the movie was banned in Rajasthan, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesha and Haryana, while the protesters attacked the screening at several places in India. Owing to all these factors, Padmaavat got a huge boost in pre-release hype. There are few from the industries, who termed this controversy as a ‘pre-planned drama’ to help the movie.
PM Narendra Modi (2019)
This biopic based on the life of the current Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, was in the headlines for all the wrong reasons, ever since it was announced. The opposition parties registered a complaint to Election Commission of India, to delay the release of the movie as it was claimed to influence the Lok Sabha elections. Owing to the complaint, the movie saw several delays and finally locked for the release on 24th May 2019, after the election results are out. Whatever the content would be, one thing is sure that the biopic became a topic of discussion and sparked an interest, in otherwise a dull promotional campaign.
With PM Narendra Modi yet to release, it will be interesting to see if it manages to convert the air of political controversy in its favour.