Controversies play the villain

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An anti-tobacco organisation is demanding that Saif, who is seen smoking a cigar in the posters and promos of Go Goa Gone, should be punished for violating the country’s anti-smoking laws under provisions of the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Act (COPTA), 2003.

The National Commission for Women recently summoned the producers following a complaint against the negative portrayal of witches in the film Ek Thi Daayan. The number of films landing in trouble zone because of interference of government and other bodies has lately been steadily on the rise.
Vishwaroop, Sadda Haq, Jism 2, Race 2, Jolly LLB, Matru Ki Bijlee Ka Mandola and many more films have been embroiled in controversy because of protests by regional, religious, political and other kinds of groups. Not just these, filmmaker Madhureeta Anand says she has come across many pre-censorships also. “The fear of protests and controversies have become so regular that even when I start talking about a film idea people start cautioning about the possible protests it could attract. Already filmmakers do not enjoy any government support and these protests are further strangulating our cultural liberties,” says Madhureeta.
She says that the industry is suffering from financial, creative and other losses because of these protests. Vishal Bhardwaj refused to show the film, Ek Thi Daayan to NCW, saying that only the Censor Board has the authority to assess a film.
Actor Vir Das feels fiction requires a more lenient licence. “Commercial cinema is not a documentary which mirrors social truths. These are stories, more to do with imagination and creativity than fact, and so should not be dragged into controversies for every other song or dialogue. I have full faith in the Censor Board and don’t bother with these controversies. And the audience is the ultimate judge,” he says. His film Delhi Belly was embroiled in several controversies including a court case against its content and language.
As Go Goa Gone struggles with the cigar controversy, producer Dinesh Vijan explains that it is a part of Saif’s character of a Russian mafia lord in the film. “We did not mean to disrespect the law, neither we are trying to promote the use of tobacco. It just helped in defining Saif’s role in the film,” says Dinesh. He adds that a personalised anti-tobacco video by Saif will be played just before the film begins.
However, once a film is engulfed in controversies that threaten to delay the release of a film, there are many losses the film has to suffer, says film distributor Sanjay Chattar. “If the protests erupt once the film is complete and ready for release, a director cannot do much to change the objectionable part. As audience is confusion whether the film will be released on time or not, distributors get discouraged further,” he says.
Madhureeta adds that a system needs to be in place to check the content of the film once it goes on the floor. “After making the film, any further changes are almost impossible. There should be some regulation that directors could follow and once a film attracts protests, there should be a body to protect films at release level,” she adds.

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