When Kabir Khan walked into the Healthntrends office, he looked relaxed—after you’ve just delivered two massive hits back to back—Bajrangi Bhaijaan and Phantom—why wouldn’t you be? But about six months ago, he was in a completely different mindset.
While Salman Khan devotees waited with bated breath for the film, a petition was filed Social activist, Anil Pradhan of Chitrakoot at the Allahabad High Court seeking a ban on the film's release. They (the petitioners) were objecting to the title of the film, which they felt may offend the sentiments of the Hindu community. And the censor board too, sort of started humming the same tune. “The job of the censor board is to certify a film according to its content,” he started off, “Give me ‘A’ certification if you feel so, give me XXX even, but don’t tell me to change my film because that’s not your job.”
A few days of turmoil and heated exchanges later, Bajrangi Bhaijaan was passed by the board and the title remained. Kabir reveals it wasn’t just because they finally saw merit in the film or that they decided the allegations were baseless, but because he decided to move the court. “I had an advantage, I was advocating for a Salman Khan film, which would have been a hit any day. So I put my foot down and said ‘I won’t take an Eid release, give me in writing that the title is blasphemous and I’ll seek the help of the court.” But most directors are not as fortunate as Kabir was in this case. What about them?
Kabir Khan during a masterclass with team Healthntrends and Filmfare
When you don’t have the backing of a superstar or that of a big production house, your chances of standing up against such ridiculous PILs are slim. In a hurry to get the film released and recovering the money spent, most filmmakers just give up and agree to all such unfounded demands, thereby watching their movies getting butchered and tattered to pieces for the sake of appropriation. “It’s tough to be creative in India,” Kabir says, “It seems there is a group of people scrutinising every piece of creative work, just waiting to find that one thing that can be blown out of proportion.” But isn’t that a common grievance filmmakers forever hold against the censor board? “It’s always been a task, but under the current establishment it’s tougher,” he adds.
So is there a way out or is it all downhill from here? “You know, I believe India is inherently a tolerant nation, and a secular one. What gets branded as the ‘public reaction’ is actually the doing of a few hundred only, who perhaps want to disturb the fabric of the nation. Its time we realised that.”