Not new to making controversial movies, Bollywood’s top director Sanjay Leela Bhansali has made it to the headlines yet again. With his upcoming movie Gangubhai Kathiawadi up for release this week, many activists seem to have sprung up in action against the actors and director. Several movies of the director have faced a similar issue in the past. Local societies, activists, and even actors from the industry have raised contrary opinions against the director’s choice of movies and storylines. Have movies become more than just entertainment? The mass media platform has been revolutionising with directors walking away from commercial cinema, choosing more and more biographies, and the audiences no more than just passive watchers.
Sanjay Leela Bhansali, who is well known for his cinematography, depth of stories, and characters, is always in news for hurting the sentiments of regional groups, fringe groups, and also the kin of deceased characters. Despite the fact that movies are meant to be treated as entertainment, audiences seem to connect beyond, as most stories are based on real-life people or historical characters. The director might not have wanted to hurt the sentiments of anyone, but as it is said ‘everything that can be interpreted can also be misinterpreted.’
Here is a list of controversial movies that Sanjay Leela Bhansali courted.
#1 Guzaarish (2010)
Starting with the 2010 movie, Guzaarish, where the director was accused of stealing the plot of the film from a novel Summer Snow written by Dayanand Rajan. Praised for the painting-like frames, the movie also received backlash for a few scenes. The then sensitive topic of euthanasia. which was illegal in India. seemed to become a problem as the movie portrayed a fight for legalising it. Almost every movie of his since then has always made it to the headlines. The romantic drama stars Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, Hrithik Roshan, Aditya Roy Kapur in lead roles.
Goliyon Ki Rassleela Ram Leela (2013)
Goliyon Ki Rassleela Ram Leela had its own share of controversies related to the title of the movie. The original title Ram-Leela seemed to offend many as two deities were shown in the wrong light. Many theatres were stalled from screening the film in Jalandhar as the locals were not happy with a song in the film. The movie, which is an adaptation of Romeo Juliet, stars Deepika Padukone with Ranveer Singh in lead roles.
#3 Bajirao Mastani (2015)
Ensuring the director hits a hat trick, his film Bajirao Mastani that celebrated love over duty yet again seemed to hurt the sentiments of the Mastani’s present kin. Apart from having issues with the dialogues that according to them seemed to degrade the character, they also had issues with the cast of the movie which was considered inappropriate. The periodic drama stars Deepika Padukone, Priyanka Chopra, and Ranveer Singh in lead roles.
#4 Padmaavat (2018)
Yet another period drama of Bhansali’s to hit the news in its inception period, Padmavati faced a large number of protests from the Rajputs. Based on the real story of Rani Padmini, the story allegedly hurt the sentiments of the Rajputs as the director misused the character. The sets of the film were believed to be vandalised during a shoot in Jaipur. This release saw a major back last as fringe groups threatened the director and lead actress Deepika Padukone on various platforms. They also protested against the release of the film. The historical action-drama stars Deepika Padukone, Ranveer Singh, and Shahid Kapoor.
#5 Gangubhai Kathiawadi (2022)
The latest addition to a row of controversies by Sanjay Leela Bhansali, the yet-to-release movie has already made headlines. Alleged for the wrongful portrayal of Mumbai’s mafia woman, Gangubai Kothewali, the film has been receiving backlash from well-known actors and the kin of the deceased. The allegedly adopted children have been trying to stall the release of the movie as they believe the character has been wrongfully portrayed. The crime drama stars Alia Bhatt, Ajay Devgn, and Shantanu Maheshwari.
With hundreds of crores being spent on each of these periodic dramas, there seems to be a tension created each and every time. Be it the story or the casting, Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s movies seem to be more than just entertainment.
Do you think movies have to be just watched as entertainment, or one must speak against the wrongful doings of directors?