From ‘Kasaba’ to ‘S… Durga’: How these Malayalam films ran into controversy

Some hurt religious sentiments; some offended political parties; some drew flak for other reasons. Here are a few films that courted controversy before and after their release.
From ‘Kasaba’ to ‘S… Durga’: How these Malayalam films ran into controversy
From ‘Kasaba’ to ‘S… Durga’: How these Malayalam films ran into controversy
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Two days ago there was a major uproar when a section of Mohanlal fans went ballistic after they saw the teaser of Ikkayude Shakadam, said to be a light tribute to megastar Mammootty. Mohanlal fans felt that the makers were deliberately belittling their favourite actor in a few scenes. The makers quickly came up with an explanation by releasing the second teaser. Eventually the controversy died down. While at it, we thought of checking a few such controversies that rocked Malayalam films before and after their release.

Aami (2018): Director Kamal’s magnum opus on literary icon Kamala Surayya ran into controversy when Vidya Balan backed out at the last minute, resulting in Manju Warrier’s entry. Kamal decided to let his grudge against Vidya Balan show in the most acidic manner when he gave a statement that she would have prompted him to include more sex scenes while Manju made it more naïve and innocent. Of course, social media refused to let this go and told Kamal exactly what they thought of him. Post release, the team took out negative reviews of the film, stating that it affected the films’ box office returns. Sajid Yahiya repeated the same when his film Mohanlal was met with nasty reviews.

Lekhayude Maranam: Oru Flashback (1983): Clearly inspired by the suicide of actor Shobha following her love affair with the much-married director Balu Mahendra, the film (during the time of its release) was condemned for its exploitative nature. More so because the lady in question cannot challenge the depiction. No wonder the actor’s mother threatened to file a lawsuit against director KG George. But the film went on to become one of the most successful by the auteur.

Mukhamukham (1984): Widely regarded as one of Adoor Gopalakrishnan’s most important works, the film leads the viewer to a territory totally unexplored in Indian cinema – the inside of a revolutionary hero. The story covers about 15 years in the state’s chequered political history when the Communists had woven in and out of power, the party had split and the idealism of the times had suffered as much erosion as the image of Adoor’s revolutionary hero, Sreedharan, a dedicated worker of the Communist party. But none of it went down well with the Communist party during the film’s release. The director was called a traitor for distorting the image of the Communist movement in Kerala.

Uppu (1986): Directed by Pavithran, Uppu is about the Muslim practise of male polygamy. The Muslim community and clergy took offense to their sensitive laws being criticised. This was a statement against the man’s tendency to bend laws per his whims and fancies. Though the director categorically maintained that his intention was not to defame or victimise any religion, it still struck a nerve with the public.

Agnisakshi (1999): Based on Lalithambika Antharjanam’s book by the same name, the controversy around this film was triggered soon after the State Film Awards were declared. Senior CPI(M) leaders of the then ruling LDF government alleged saffron leaning in the selection, as director Shyamaprasad’s father was O Rajagopal, Rajya Sabha MP and all-India Vice President of the BJP at that time. Since Agnisakshi won against PT Kunju Muhammad’s Garshom, he too joined in the protest. They also accused Shaji N Karun, then head of the state Chalachitra Akademi, of trying to humour the BJP-led government at the Centre with this move.

Pathram (1999): This socio-political thriller that depicted the rivalry between two newspaper organisations was taken to task for its uncanny parallels to two of the most popular newspaper establishments in the state. The striking similarity of the film’s newspaper baron Outhakuttichayan to KM Mathew (the Malayala Manorama honcho) didn’t go down well with the latter. VP Ramachandran, the chairman of the Kerala Press Academy, tried to create a ruckus over this. It eventually created a lot of obstacles for director Joshiy and writer Renji Panicker to get the film certified. But they got help from a friend who pulled some strings in the Information and Broadcasting Ministry and replaced the Press Academy chairman and managed to get a release.

Crime File (1999): The year 1999 seems to have been ridden with controversy for Malayalam cinema! This Shaji Kailas crime thriller courted controversy for daring to make a movie on the notorious Sister Abhaya murder case. The church took offence to their unflattering depiction, particularly of the corrupt system. But the events that occurred later proved that the film only managed to scrape the surface of the issue.

Thirakkatha (2008): As with the case of Lekhayude Maranam, this Renjith film too received flak for depicting the life of a departed actor insensitively. In fact, the director initially denied any link between actor Srividya and her tempestuous affair with Kamal Haasan, but the similarities were too obvious to overlook. Finally, he did admit that the idea came to him when he heard of Srividya’s wish to meet Kamal during her last days. It has been alleged that he even took references from her personal diaries during scripting.

Left Right Left (2013): Directed by Arun K Aravind and scripted by Murali Gopy, the film kicked up a controversy for its pointed references to two of the most powerful leaders of the CPM party – Pinarayi Vijayan and VS Achuthanandan. It also raked up the infamous TP Chandrasekharan murder case and quite a few theatres were reluctant to screen it. The party interpreted it as an attempt to degrade them. Though Pinarayi is shown in an unflattering light, they also justify his image with an astute background story. The ongoing rivalry between VS and Pinarayi was also mentioned at length.

Kathakali (2016): The film came under attack for its excessive depiction of nudity and vulgarity, and the CBFC wanted the removal of certain scenes before issuing the certification. But later on, following the intervention of the Kerala High Court, the film was given an A certificate by the Censor Board.

S… Durga (2017): Initially called Sexy Durga, the film’s name was changed to S Durga by the CBFC while giving clearance with a U/A certificate. The film also received 21 audio mutes but no scene cuts. Directed by Sanal Kumar Sasidharan, the film highlights the patriarchal setup in Kerala through the eyes of an eloping couple and the horrors they endure on the way. The film, which was first included in IFFI Goa, was later removed from the Indian Panorama section at the behest of the Union Ministry (which considered the title to be insulting to Hindu sentiments). The director then approached the Kerala High Court, which in turn ordered the film to be screened at IFFI. Strangely, Sanal withdrew S Durga from the International Film Festival of Kerala (IFFK) and conducted a screening of the film at Thiruvananthapuram. It was alleged that he withdrew the film as it wasn’t included in the international competition. The director maintains that it was withdrawn in protest against the attitude of the academy, which had placed it in the Malayalam Cinema Today category, which is meant to promote contemporary Malayalam cinema that needs support.

Ramaleela (2017): One of Dileep’s most awaited films, Ramaleela became the centre of controversy when he was accused of being the mastermind behind the abduction and molestation of a female actor and arrested. So when the release date was announced, social media was divided into two – the ones who chose to boycott it on moral grounds and the other section that felt cinema cannot be taken personally, after all a lot of people’s hard work is behind it. Amidst widespread opposition, the film released to positive reviews and was declared a box office winner.

Kasaba (2016): The film was criticised for glorifying misogyny, more so as it showed Mammootty playing a cop who makes sexually explicit remarks to a lady officer and get away with it, accompanied by celebratory BGM. Two years later, actor Parvathy found herself in the eye of a storm when she criticised Mammootty for acting in a film like Kasaba that glorified misogyny. That was enough for his fans to go on a rampage on her FB page, demanding an apology and showering her with every expletive available in the dictionary. Of course, Parvathy did no such thing and issued a counter attack, with the adage OMKV – or go to hell for all I care (being the kinder translation) – at those who targeted her, like director Jude Antony Joseph. She proudly hashtagged herself as feminichi and resolutely stuck to her guns.

Villain (2017): When his much-touted thriller failed to live up to all the hype and faced some stinging online reviews, the director, B Unnikrishnan, decided to play the victim card, posting on movie online platforms and appearing on television interviews to vent his ire at the critics, who he felt were ignorant about the art form called cinema and the masterpiece called Villain.

This article was originally published on The News Minute has syndicated the content. You can read the original article here.

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