Two films’ releases stalled due to controversial content

Jaideep Ahlawat and Junaid Khan star in Maharaj. Photo: Poster Grab

Hindus and Muslims, respectively, have taken offence to the content of two films that were slated to release on June 14—YRF Entertainment’s Maharaj on Netflix, and Hamare Baarah in theatres. The courts have stalled the releases of both the movies and it is a first in film history that more than one film to be released in a single week has faced this contretemps!


Hashtags like “Boycott Netflix” and “Ban Maharaj Film” are trending as social media users objected to Maharaj, starring Junaid Khan, son of Aamir Khan. Directed by Siddharth P. Malhotra of Hichki fame, the Aditya Chopra production was to stream on Netflix from June 14.

Critics have claimed that the movie could offend religious sentiments. One user criticized the film as “Hindumisic,” accusing it of distorting the image of sadhus and the Vallabh Sampradaya during British rule.

The Gujarat High Court has thus temporarily halted the release of the film, following a petition filed by members of the Vaishnavite Pustimargi sect, dedicated to Lord Krishna, as per news agency, PTI. It cited concerns over “potential discord and misrepresentation of religious beliefs” in the film.

Maharaj is based on the historic Maharaj libel case of 1862. The case challenged religious authority and put focus on the role of journalism in social reform. It spoke of allegations of misconduct against a prominent spiritual leader, referred to as Maharaj, which Karsandas Mulji, a journalist, exposed in his publication, Satya Prakash.

The libel case was a big win for Karsandas, who was praised and given the nickname of “Luther”, after Martin Luther King, for daring to challenge and fight corruption in religious practices.

The film’s narrative received objections from followers of the Vaishnavite Pustimargi sect. The followers argued that “the film could distort their religious practices and provoke animosity.” The petitioners moved the Gujarat High Court, citing potential violations of the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021, and demanding self-regulation norms for OTT platforms.

The court maintained stress on “the need to balance artistic expression with communal harmony and address concerns about potential religious sensitivities.”

Incidentally, Aamir Khan’s starring vehicle, PK, had also courted trouble as it mocked Hindu beliefs as well as the science of Vaastu-Shastra, which has been followed for centuries and even to date, especially in South India. And so, Aamir too is also being trolled on social media. On X, a user said, “O Hindu wake up… A father (Aamir Khan) makes fun of Lord Shiva by releasing the movie PK & his son defames the Hindu religion, and cultural tradition by releasing the movie Maharaj! This movie must be boycotted..#BoycottNetflix Ban Maharaj Film.”

Annu Kapoor in Hamare Baarah. Photo: Teaser Video Grab

Hamare Baarah

The Supreme Court stayed the release of the film, Hamare Baarah (We have twelve children), just a day before its June 14 release, after taking note of allegations that the film was “derogatory to the Islamic faith and married Muslim women.”

A vacation bench of the apex court, comprising Justices Vikram Nath and Sandeep Mehta, took note of petitioner Azhar Basha Tamboli, and asked the Bombay High Court to take an expeditious decision on the petition, as per a PTI report. Until then, its screening shall remain suspended. The film has already been banned in Karnataka.

“I want to thank the Supreme Court for hearing us today…The Censor Board said that this is a movie on women’s empowerment and population awareness and had submitted the report to the Bombay High Court….The Supreme Court said that the film screening would be stopped as decided by the Bombay High Court. The Supreme Court also gave instructions to hear this matter immediately and give a verdict on this as early as possible,” producer Virender Bhagat told the news agency, ANI.

Advocate Shakil, during the hearing, submitted that the High Court directed an “interested party”, the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC), to form a committee to screen the film. But counsel representing the makers noted that all the objectionable scenes have been removed from the film’s teasers.

The court, however, stated, “If the teaser is so offensive then what about the whole movie… Prima facie it seems you have failed…”

Hamare Baarah is about Manzoor Ali Khan Sanjari, who lost his first wife during childbirth and yet wants to have more children with his second wife, who is now pregnant for the sixth time.

Annu Kapoor, Manoj Joshi and Paritosh Tripathi star in the film directed by Kamal Chandra.



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