By Siddhi Pathak
With PK, Rajkumar Hirani and Aamir Khan have once again managed to stir up a thought provoking debate about Indian rituals and conventions. The film took a dig at ‘godmen’, questioning their true intentions. Whenever there are new ideas, they will be challenged. While healthy debate and discussion are always welcome, the film has also sparked violent protests in all parts of the country. #BanPK became the favourite hashtag of a lot of right wing Hindu activists, while the thought trending on Twitter was #SupportPK from its supporters.
Right wing outfits such as the Bajrang Dal and the Vishwa Hindu Parishad accused PK of hurting religious sentiments. Consequently, the film that won many hearts, was put under the scanner. The protests sparked off on social media and escalated to vandalism, with activists raiding theatres that were screening the film, which they felt ‘made fun of Hindu gods’. They questioned the Censor Board’s certification and urged it to ban the film, or delete the parts that were offensive with immediate effect. Film exhibitor Akshaye Rathi said, “There are some odd shows being shut down here and there but thanks to the police departments and the authorities overall the shows are going on. The police are being very co-operative everywhere.”
Before the matter snowballed into a serious law and order situation, the Maharashtra government, led by the Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP), stepped in, and asked the police to look into the matter.
Minister of State for Home, Ram Shinde told PTI, “The Censor Board may have found the film fit to be released and hence they cleared it from their end. But when we find a threat to law and order in the state, we will intervene.”
Leela Samson, chairperson of the Censor Board, however, stated that the Board will not remove any scenes from the film as it has already been released.
Reacting to the protests, the director Rajkumar Hirani clarified, “I appeal to the groups protesting against our film to see the film in totality and not just isolated scenes. Our intention is not to hurt anyone, or to discriminate against any religion. I would once again like to assure them that I have the highest regard towards all religions, and that we respect all religions and faiths.”
Unfortunately, the protests have affected the box-office collections of the movie slightly. However, the film by the end of the second weekend had already made Rs.236.24 crore.
The good part is that the industry unanimously stood up in support of the film. Aamir’s close friend, Salman Khan tweeted, “Is PK not an amazzziiiiing film?” Uday Chopra also lent his support for the film by tweeting, “What a wonderful film #PK is.just saw it and I’m bowled over by it. It is the most important film that every Indian should see. Salute!”
Expressing his anger against those protesting, Johar tweeted, “Attacking a duly censored film has to stop!!! What kind of a democracy are we living in?? No film should be targeted or be allowed to..,#PK.” Expressing a slightly more neutral view, film-maker Shekhar Kapur, tweeted, “I found PK very entertaining. But I still admire the amazing selfless work some of our spiritual leaders are doing for our people #Pkdebate”
Raising a very important point, actor Ranvir Shorey posted, “I would say these morons vandalising against PK should go get jobs, except that we all know this is their livelihood.”
While the outrage raises serious questions about artistes’ rights to freedom of expression, it also establishes that the audiences are embracing unconventional films. At the same time, it is important to dwell on the thought if such protests are justified! Or, are we making a mockery of cinema as well as religion at the hands of a few elements, who claim to be the guardians of religion?
with inputs from PTI