2015: When controversy bug bit B-town
Mumbai : From intolerance to censorship, 2015 saw Bollywood stars departing from their usual diplomatic stand and consequently getting embroiled in controversies for expressing their views, with the three Khans becoming the biggest contributors to the rows.
Be it Aamir Khan and Shah Rukh Khan’s remarks on intolerance or Salman Khan’s open disapproval of terrorist Yakub Memon’s death sentence, controversies walked hand-in-hand with Bollywood stars in the year gone by.
When Aamir said he was alarmed by the recent incidents of violence in the country and his wife Kiran Rao even suggested that they should leave the country, the superstar came under fire from the members of the ruling party, his own colleagues some celebrities and fans.
From mocking him for his comments to calling him treacherous, the 50-year-old actor was not spared. Later, Aamir released a statement in his defence stating that his words were misunderstood but he stands by everything that he had said.
Shah Rukh evoked similar reactions when on his 50th birthday, he said there was “extreme intolerance” in the country.
His comments snowballed into a political controversy, with ruling BJP leaders criticising the actor. Giving his opinion to growing protests and return of awards by filmmakers, scientists, writers and historians over the climate of intolerance, King Khan said while he had no National Film Award to return, he respects the decision of filmmakers giving back their honour.
Little did the actor know, he got tagged as a Pakistani agent and compared to terrorist Hafiz Saeed by politicians. Shah Rukh, later, claimed he never said India was intolerant and his words were misconstrued.
Much before the two superstars came into the scene, a wave of protests and open displeasure began by top filmmakers like Dibakar Banerjee and Anand Patwardhan.
They both along with eight other directors returned their National Awards to express solidarity to agitating FTII students and protest against intolerance in the country.
24 other filmmakers also returned their awards last month, a move slammed by some sections, including Bollywood stars like Anupam Kher, Raveena Tandon and Priyadarshan.
The prime seed of controversy was Film and Television Institute of India students going on an indefinite strike from June 12 following the appointment of television actor and BJP member Gajendra Chauhan as president of the FTII Society and chairman of its Governing Council.
Kher, whose wife Kirron is a BJP MP, even went to the extent of leading a tolerance march in the national capital to oppose the other voices.
The Censor Board was another institution, which upset many in Bollywood and fans of cinema across the country this year, first by proposing a list of 28 ‘banned’ words and later demanding cuts in films like “NH 10″, “Dum Laga Ke Haisha”, James Bond film “Spectre” and “Angry Indian Godesses”.
Its chief Pahalaj Nihalani received backlash after the censor board shortened the length of a kiss in “Spectre”.
Salman, known for his nonchalant way of expressing his views, posted a series of tweets suggesting terror convict Yakub was innocent and should not be hanged for the acts of his brother Tiger Memon.
In his initial tweets, starting with “Hang Tiger”, the “Dabangg” star said “Brother is being hanged for tiger” and that the brother had no right to call himself “Tiger”.
It sparked protests outside his home where police had to be deployed, outrage on social media and public criticism from his father, Salim Khan. Following this, Salman withdrew the tweets and apologised.
The 49-year-old actor returned to the centre of controversies with the verdict of his 2002 hit-and-run case. While the session court held him guilty, the High Court acquitted him all of the charges.
The verdict surely brought relief and happiness to Salman, his family and fans but its authenticity was also questioned by many.
Amitabh Bachchan, by his own confession, tries to maintain safe distance from anything this is even remotely controversial. The 73-year-old actor, however, got embroiled into a controversy over endorsing popular noodles.
Actresses Madhuri Dixit Nene and Preity Zinta were the other celebrities who were called out for same.
The three stars were slapped with notices by the Tamil Nadu consumer forum on a petition seeking a direction to them not to promote Maggi noodles on “false representations” about quality and safety.
Sooraj Pancholi, launched by Salman this year with “Hero”, was caught up in the suicide case of girlfriend Jiah Khan.
While Sooraj was arrested and later released on bail by Mumbai police, the case was then transferred to CBI which after investigation concluded that it was a case of suicide and not homicidal death as alleged by Jiah’s mother Rabia Khan.
The CBI has charged Sooraj for abetment of suicide and questioned him during its investigations.