‘Gump’tion and more: Laal Singh Chaddha to hit screens amidst boycott calls

Aamir Khan and Kareena Kapoor Khan in Laal Singh Chaddha. Photo: Spice PR 

I do not recollect any Aamir Khan film getting delayed so much. Laal Singh Chaddha, his 10th film production in 21 years, finally releases August 11. The actor, technically, is in his 50th year (!!!) in films, having shot first for Yaadon Ki Baraat (1973) as a child artiste! As a leading man, he has completed almost 35 years and still remains a superstar.

Laal Singh Chaddha—The History

It was four years ago to the month (August) that Aamir had announced his purchasing the remake rights of the 1994 American drama Forrest Gump. On March 14, 2019, his 54th birthday, he officially announced Laal Singh Chaddha. Advait Chandan, who had previously directed Aamir’s production, Secret Superstar (2017), was chosen as director.

Atul Kulkarni, who had acted with Aamir way back in 2006 in Rang De Basanti,  wrote the Hindi adaptation. In an interview with a leading portal, Bollywood Hungama.com, Atul had said, “I wrote the script 10 years ago, but Aamir took a couple of years because he did not believe that I must have written a good script. So he did not want to hurt me. After a few years, he heard the script and within 30 seconds he said I am going to do the film.”(Aamir had also expressed similar reservations for varying periods on Sarfarosh and Lagaan!!)

However, it took a good 7 to 8 years to get the remake rights from the makers of the original (Paramount Studios). Once the studio confirmed that the rights were available, Khan made a trip to Los Angeles in February 2018 and met the studio heads along with co-producer Radhika Chaudhari.

Kareena Kapoor Khan was paired with Aamir yet again after 3 Idiots (2009) and Talaash: The Answer Lies Within (2012), also co-produced by Aamir. In August 2019, Vijay Sethupathi was signed, but opted out later due to other commitments. The principal photography commenced in October 2019, with a muhurat shot given by Aamir’s mother Zeenat Hussain. After four schedules all over India, the film was halted due to the COVID-19 pandemic and, later, the India-China standoff along the Galwan Valley. In September 2020, Aamir Khan resumed the shooting of the film in Mumbai, with safety measures and guidelines instructed by the government.

In July 2021, Aamir Khan and his team flew to Ladakh, where they shot war sequences. Earlier in May 2021, Naga Chaitanya was confirmed for the film and completed his portions by August 2021. The film’s shooting was finally complete on September 16, 2021.

Initially scheduled for release on Christmas (Aamir’s favorite release time) 2020, the film was naturally postponed multiple times and after a few such changes, finally releases on August 11, Rakshabandhan Day, in a competition with Akshay Kumar’s home production, Raksha Bandhan, themed around the very festival and the brother-sister bond. Laal Singh Chaddha is about events in Indian history unfolding through the perspective of Laal Singh, a dim-wit who has a great understanding of emotions. 

The controversies

A widespread ‘Boycott Laal Singh Chaddha” campaign has been launched against this film for over a fortnight now. Trending on Twitter for over 10 days, the charge against the film is that is allegedly Hinduphobic, based on comments Aamir Khan had made in 2015 about then-wife Kiran Rao suggesting to him that they leave India. His remark, “Our country is very tolerant, but there are people who spread ill-will,” was not taken kindly, along with Shah Rukh Khan’s similar declaration around the same time. Aamir’s second wife Kiran Rao (a Hindu), also made headlines for saying that she “considered leaving the country for the safety of their children.”

Such ill-advised remarks cost Aamir Khan dear, and even Dangal  (2016) despite its huge success and his well-conceived 2017 production, Secret Superstar (a story with a plea for progressiveness among Muslims), bore its brunt, failing to do well in India while it raked in good money overseas.

Another reason was Aamir contemplating part of the shoot in Turkey for Laal Singh Chaddha itself. Aamir had even met the Turkish First Lady even when Turkey was radicalizing Indian Muslim youth in connivance with Pakistan, and openly backing Pakistan on Kashmir. A few of Kareena’s controversial statements from the past have been dug out too.

Speaking at a pre-release event recently, Aamir said, “I feel sad also because a lot of people who are saying this believe in their hearts that I am someone who doesn’t like India… and that’s quite untrue. I really love the country… That’s how I am. It is rather unfortunate if some people feel that way.” This was widely reported by Press Trust of India (PTI). “I want to assure everyone that it’s not the case, so please don’t boycott my films, please watch my films,” he had added.

Leading lady Kareena also reacted to the boycott trend and told India Today, “There are different platforms. Everyone has an opinion. So now, if that is going to be there, then you have to learn to ignore certain things. Otherwise, it will just become impossible to live your life. And that’s why I don’t take any of this like seriously.”

Aamir, in his recent appearance on the Sony TV show, Kaun Banega Crorepati,  revealed that Laal Singh Chaddha was shot near the famous Jatayupara building in Chadayamangalam in the Kollam district of Kerala as he wanted to shoot at a place that the world knew nothing about. The statue of Jatayu in the Jatayu Earth Center is one of the tallest statues across the globe. According to Ramayana, the bird Jatayu fell on the rock, Jatayu sacrificing his life for protecting Sita, and the statue is considered a symbol of protection.

The latest report from BollywoodLife.com says that netizens are additionally upset that Aamir was called as a guest on Amitabh Bachchan’s show. They have even demanded a boycott of the episode, terming it “scripted”.

Aamir Khan plays an emotionally rich dim-wit in Laal Singh Chaddha. Photo: Spice PR

Reactions from the film world

Actor and model Milind Soman tweeted, “Trolls can’t stop a good film” ambiguously as even Raksha Bandhan, the co-release, is being boycotted by a (far smaller) section because of its co-writer Kanika Dhillon’s unfortunate statements in recent times and in the past. Many comments invoked The Kashmir Files and Rocketry. One even said, “Don’t defend those hypocrites.”

Parzania director Rahul Dholakia urged restraint, tweeting,. “Trolling a film because a cast or crew member’s ideology differs from yours is unfair to the other hundreds who have worked hard to make the film. They have also pinned their hopes on the success of the film to help realize their dreams. Spare a thought.” However, counter-claims by portals like opindia.com maintained that even celebs are responsible for their choices and their consequences.

Kangana Ranaut took to Instagram and penned a lengthy note, actually stating that Aamir Khan himself was behind the calls for boycott his own film! She has accused Aamir of “masterminding” the hatred around his film. Kangana wrote, “I think all the negativity around the upcoming release Laal Singh Chaddha is skillfully curated by mastermind Aamir Khan himself, this year no Hindi films have worked barring one exception of a comedy sequel. Only South films deeply rooted in Indian culture or with local flavor have worked, a Hollywood remake would not have worked anyway.”

Kangana also referred to Aamir’s words in 2015 and continued, “But now they will call India intolerant. Hindi films need to understand the pulse of audiences, it’s not (about) being a Hindu or Muslim. Even after Aamir Khan made Hinduphobic PK or called India intolerant, he gave one of the biggest hits of his life (Dangal). Please stop making it about religion or ideology, it takes away from their bad acting and bad films.”

Fact File

Aamir is related to Abul Kalam Azad, best known as Maulana Azad, the famous Indian independence activist, Islamic theologian, writer and after Independence, the first Minister for Education in the Indian government. The actor is also the second cousin of six-time Member of Rajya Sabha, former Bharatiya Janata Party vice-president Najma Heptulla, who is the grand-niece of Maulana Azad.

Aamir has starred in genuinely patriotic films like Sarfarosh (which crystallized his decision to concentrate on one film at a time) and Lagaan, besides Rang De Basanti and the muddled Mangal Pandey: The Rising. For the social message it gave out, 3 Idiots was also a patriotic film in that sense. And though Rajkumar Hirani took potshots at certain issues of Hinduism and mocked a scientific entity like Vastu-Shastra, PK too had its reformative patriotic overtones. By the same token, he had taken on regressive practices in his own religion (Islam) in Secret Superstar. 3 Idiots was the first Hindi film to do a 200 crore nett business in India and the last-ever Golden Jubilee (a 50-week runner in the theatres). PK was the first to do Rs. 300 crore.








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