15 Indian & Bollywood Movies That Faced Massive Protest In India

When it comes to entertainment in India, protests and public dissent are commonplace, as anyone who watches Indian films knows. Such countless motion pictures have been controversial due to their substance and topic. 

Sometimes, a film’s outcome and perception are also influenced by the lifestyle and opinions of its stars and directors. Indian audiences never take a movie lightly when it touches on a sensitive subject. Faith, historical values, societal beliefs, politics, or cultural taboos could all be relevant to these subjects. 

Besides, the Indian Censor Board has been criticized for its rigid and out-of-date approach. Also, it has a history of excluding movies with even the tiniest sexual content. Even though the situation has improved, most Indians hold intolerant viewpoints. There are numerous Indian films with major controversies or protests that necessitate alterations. 

We enlisted 15 such contentious films with topics ranging from homophobia to communal violence to politics to history. 

Interestingly, critics gave these films high marks and they were well-appreciated at international film festivals.

15 Movies that have been through Rages

1. Padmaavat (2018)

Padmaavat, directed by Sanjay Leela Bhansali, is one Indian film that everyone immediately thinks of. It wasn’t that long ago that it caused a lot of controversies and shocked the media. 

The film, originally titled “Padmaavati,” is based on a Sufi epic poem written in the 16th century. It was not well received by the Rajput community in many parts of India and caused quite a stir. These demonstrations were led by the Rajput organization known as the Rajput Karni Sena. 

They thought the movie was inappropriate and wrong about history. The protest continued to escalate and spread across the nation, involving burning cars, effigies, protests, and slogans. 

Deepika Padukone, who played Padmaavati, was also the target of numerous threats, some of which even called for her to be cut off. The Rajputs assert that their history was distorted and that their queen was depicted in revealing attire. 

They also objected to a scene in which she has a private moment with Ranveer Singh’s Khilji, a Muslim invader. In the end, Bhansali was forced to rename the movie Padmaavat. Additionally, he edited a few scenes to release it.

2. Haider (2014)

Haider, directed by Vishal Bhardwaj and one of the most talked-about Indian films of 2014, is a masterpiece. While the shooting continued, locals protested and expressed dissatisfaction with it. Shahid Kapoor (Haider Meer), Irrfan Khan (Roohdar), and Shraddha Kapoor (Arshia Lone) star in the Kashmiri-set film. 

It is based on the famous tragic play Hamlet by William Shakespeare (1603). Locals from Kashmir and other parts of India opposed the film. They found the depiction of the Indian army offensive. They were against the scenes that showed how the Indian army was treating Kashmiri people and violating human rights.

The on-campus students also protested while Bhardwaj was filming at Kashmir University. They demonstrated their opposition to flying the national flag on a fictitious bunker. Later, for security reasons, police were deployed, students were detained for illegal activity, and protesters were forced to leave. 

Despite the initial fight, the movie was released successfully and received positive reviews.

3. Ram-Leela (2013)

Social activists and vigilantes always pay attention to Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s films. Goliyon Ki Rasleela, his movie, Also, Ram-Leela had to deal with chaos. At the moment of its release, there were a lot of protests in various parts of India. 

Deepika Padukone plays Leela Sanera, and Ranveer Singh plays Ram Rajadi. The title and the provocative allusions to particular communities were the sources of contention. 

The terms “Jadeja” and “Rabari” were considered offensive by the Kshatriya (warrior) community in the city of Rajkot in Gujarat. The two families at odds in the movie were given these names. 

The Kshatriya communities’ religious sentiments were also hurt by the film’s song “Ghoomar.” Mass demonstrations were also held by NGOs, extremist social welfare workers, and some faith groups in opposition to the film.

The screenings were halted when some people set fire to the movie’s posters. People were even asked to leave the theatres at some locations.

Later, Bhansali changed the movie’s name from “Ramleela” to “Ram-Leela” and back to the current title. Additionally, he substituted the terms “Sanedo” and “Rajri” for “Jadeja” and “Rabari.” Later, The police’s subsequent intervention brought an end to the protests.

4. Bandit Queen (1995)

This was a Phoolan Devi biopic produced by Shekhar Kapur. Due to the movie’s use of crude language and some nudity, it received a lot of criticism.

5. Madras Cafe (2013)

Madras Cafe is a political thriller starring John Abraham as Major Vikram Singh. Shoojit Sircar is the director, and in 2013, it also sparked significant controversy. John plays an Indian intelligence agent in Sri Lanka in the movie. 

It is inspired by the 1980s civil war between the government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). The film was protested against in Tamil Nadu by locals, students, and members of political organizations that support the Tamil people. 

They assert that the film depicted the LTTE negatively and was anti-Tamil. The movie producers arranged a preview in response to the protesters’ demands.

On the other hand, the protesters did not budge and maintained their position. 

Additionally, they filed a police complaint against its release. Regarding the movie, Seeman, the leader of the Tamil group Naam Tamizhar Katchi, stated:

“The movie’s goal is to make Prabhakaran, the LTTE’s leader at the time, look bad. We cannot accept the film in any form”.

On the other hand, Sircar insists that the movie only depicts reality. He informed the BBC:”Although the film is based on research into actual events, it is a fictional work.”

“It resembles actual political events, dealing with the civil war and the rebel group’s ideology.”Despite numerous petitions, the Madras High Court banned the film in Tamil Nadu, but not the entire film.

6. Vishwaroopam (2013)

Kamal Haasan, a star of South Indian cinema, was the director of Vishwaroopam, a huge project. The film was directed, acted, and produced by him. It made a lot of money and was a big hit at the box office. 

In the role of Wisam Ahmad, played by Kamal Haasan, a Muslim man pretends to be Hindu for an undercover army mission. The movie’s plot is about how Indian intelligence services helped the United States fight terrorism after the 9/11 attacks. 

Several Muslim civic organizations protested the film’s release in Tamil Nadu. Due to this, the state government imposed a 15-day ban on the movie. The Muslim community allegedly felt hurt by the film. 

The film’s release was also delayed in the other south Indian states due to this. The controversial scenes in the film were changed after these protests, and the movie was finally shown to the public in Tamil Nadu.

7. Ae Dil Hai Mushkil (2016)

This film’s protest had nothing to do with the movie’s content. 

After the Uri attack, which enraged the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena into banning the Pakistani artist, the film starring Fawad Khan was released.

8. OMG-Oh My God! (2012)

Although the film Oh My God starred Akshay Kumar (Krishna Vasudev Yadav) and Paresh Rawal (Kanji Lalji Mehta), it was a hit and was not without controversy. The film offers a novel perspective on India’s worship and devotional practices. 

Dissenters criticized it as disrespectful to Hindu deities and beliefs as a result. It also didn’t go over well with saints and priests in the country. They found the film’s numerous references to gurus and ritualists offensive. Spiritual devotees and religious leaders also sparked a huge uproar in Punjab’s major cities. 

They demanded that the movie not be shown at all. Pro-religious groups led these demonstrations, which compelled theatres and local authorities to halt screenings. The police attempted to schedule a preview with protesting organizations in Jalandhar, but it was postponed.

Nimisha Mehta, vice president of one of these organizations, told Hindustan Times: “We have been assured by the police that there will be no screening in the city before the agitating groups are satisfied, and controversial scenes are removed.” 

“People will not tolerate the film if the police get it released, and the police will be responsible for the consequences of people’s ire,” Several cities at the time, including Jalandhar, Ludhiana, Amritsar, Nawanshahr, and Hoshiarpur, were unable to screen the film.

9. My Name is Khan (2010)

When Shah Rukh Khan starred in My Name is Khan, it caused a lot of controversy. When Shah Rukh commented on Pakistani cricketers, controversy erupted, and he spoke out in favour of Pakistani cricket players playing in that year’s Indian Premier League (IPL).

In addition, Shah Rukh owns Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR), an IPL team with Pakistani players in the past. The actor’s remarks were characterized as anti-national by a conservative political party in India. 

The extremist religious group’s leaders demanded an apology and threatened to disrupt the film’s release. The group took to the streets when Shah Rukh refused to apologize, and they threatened to damage theatres and tore posters down. 

Before the movie came out, the police in Mumbai made more than 2,000 arrests for rioting and disrupting the event.

On the other hand, the movie was well-received all over India and the world. Shah Rukh plays Rizwan Khan, a Muslim man who is the film’s focus. Rizwan, an American with Asperger’s Syndrome, experiences difficulties following 9/11.

10. Nishabd (2007)

When they tackle a topic that is considered taboo, Indian films rarely leave room for controversy. One of them is Nishabd, written by Ram Gopal Verma. Because it dealt with an extramarital affair, it received much negative attention. 

Amitabh Bachchan, played by Vijay Anand, is a man in his 60s in the movie. Jiah Khan (Jia), who plays the 18-year-old girl, is shown to be attracted to him. The film is purportedly based on the renowned book Lolita (1955) by Russian writer Vladimir Nabokov, which spins around a comparable topic. 

Amitabh’s choice of a character who falls in love with a girl his granddaughters the same age angered many people in the country. Indian audiences did not enjoy some of the film’s heated and sensual scenes. In large numbers, people from Jalandhar, Varanasi, and Ahmedabad (Amitabh’s hometown) came to protest the film. 

According to a political group in Jalandhar, the movie defied Indian sensibilities and values. The group’s general secretary stated: 

“The person played by Amitabh is against the practices of our general public.” “It will harm the children’s psychology.”

“As a result, we are protesting against the film’s screening, and we will continue our protest until the film is banned,” The protesters yelled slogans in opposition to Amitabh, damaged and tore the posters for the movie, and demanded a nationwide ban. 

However, Nishabd was eventually released, but audiences gave it mixed reviews.

11. Water (2005)

Water is consistently listed among the most controversial Indian films ever made. Regarding her films, Indo-Canadian director Deepa Mehta is almost always in trouble. Water was met with a wide range of criticism and public outrage during its creation and release. 

The subject of widows in Indian society, a taboo topic, is addressed in Deepa’s film. Religious and pro-nationalist individuals were outraged by this film. Water is about widows living in inhumane conditions in Varanasi’s ashrams (sanctuaries). 

The film depicts widows struggling to make ends meet. Priests who run these places force some of these women into prostitution. A degrading portrayal of the holy city of Varanasi sparked outrage among numerous right-wing organizations. 

During the film’s production, they rose to their feet in opposition. During the shoot, irate crowds barged inside and vandalized the sets and equipment. Some even made the threat of suicide to stop the filming.

Another group tried to burn any DVDs of the movie that were available and warned people not to sell them. An extremist group member stated:

We won’t let the movie be shown here, as it portrays Hindu culture in a negative light and offends Hindu sentiments. 

Additionally, he stated that any theatre showing Water would have to “face the consequences.” Because of mounting strain and tension, Deepa moved the shooting of the film to Sri Lanka.

12. Manikarnika (2019)

Protests over illogical issues are also being held in opposition to this movie starring Rani Laxmi Bai. 

The Sarva Brahmin Mahasabha acknowledged to the media that the film’s creators had disrespectfully portrayed Rani Laxmi Bai. 

Since they haven’t even seen the movie yet, they have unfounded arguments.

13. Fire (1998)

Fire is also directed by Deepa Mehta, who is always so brave. It’s a lot ahead of its time. Additionally, it is one of the earliest Indian films to depict a lesbian relationship. Sister-in-law Radha and Sita, played by Shabana Azmi and Nandita Das, are unhappy in their marriage. 

They develop a homosexual relationship with each other due to their loneliness. Pro-culture activists and one of Maharashtra’s political parties organized several protests following the film’s release to prevent its release.

Ladies from the party’s ladies’ wing burst into theatres and constrained the film lobbies to be closed. Mobs of protesters continued to break glass panes, burning posters, and yell slogans in numerous locations across India. 

Deepa eventually had to take police safety after receiving death threats as well. Manohar Joshi, the Chief Minister of Maharashtra at that time, responded to a news agency’s request for his opinion on the protests:

“I commend them for what they have accomplished. The subject of the movie is foreign to our culture. The film did well at the box office after being cleared by the Censor Board. 

However, the protesters kept coming together to demand a ban. They asserted that the film’s focus on homosexuality went against their culture, tradition, and the holy institution of marriage. 

The film was approved unchanged after a second review by the Censor Board. Despite significant setbacks during and after production, these Indian films’ overall popularity and appeal were only enhanced. 

They became cult films not only because of the controversial and eye-opening content but also because of the enormous fame (or notoriety) that these arguments brought them.

14. Udta Punjab (2016)

The film was about how young people in Punjab were into drugs, which was a good cause. However, the Shiv Sena believes that the film is deceiving young people, and they believe that the movie is about slandering Punjab. The movie was met with much opposition, but the state government supported it.

15. Pathaan (2023)

In Indore, a city in Madhya Pradesh, an organization’s activists held a protest against the upcoming Bollywood film “Pathaan” and its song “Besharam Rang.”

At a road intersection, members of the “Veer Shivaji Group” set fire to effigies of Shah Rukh Khan and Deepika Padukone. 

They claimed that the Hindu community was offended by the content of the song “Besharam Rang,” and they demanded that the movie, which was scheduled to be released in January of next year, be banned. 

You Earlier in the day, Madhya Pradesh Home Minister Narottam Mishra demanded “rectification” for the colour of Padukone and lead actor Shah Rukh Khan’s attire and Padukone’s costume in the song “Pathaan.”

Mishra stated that the government would consider what to do regarding the film’s screening in Madhya Pradesh if certain scenes in the song were not “corrected.”

The home minister had previously performed puja at Lord Parshuram’s birthplace in Janapav Kuti, close to Mhow, before turning his attention to the movie and the song.

In the end, negative publicity is also positive publicity. Some of these movies are still the best for the audience.

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