Hey Ram! Your Ayodhya Must Be Weeping!! | 7 October, 2022

As if the social media trolls for the computer graphics in their film, Adipurush, weren’t bad enough, the controversy over Saif Ali Khan’s get-up in the film came as another rude shock to the film’s producers and director Om Raut, soon after. Both the ‘complaints’ got so much footage on TV news channels and on social media that the discussions around them don’t look like they are going to stop any time soon.

Producer Bhushan Kumar and director Om Raut released the teaser with great fanfare on 2nd October in Ayodhya. Reportedly, the producer’s large team put in efforts for more than two months to turn the planned teaser release event into a memorable affair. Although the time for the teaser to be released was heavily advertised as 7.11 p.m. on 2nd October, the physical release at Ayodhya was delayed by a little more than an hour. But the producers kept their date with netizens as the teaser was released online at exactly 7.11 p.m.

The trolls swung into action right then, criticising the visual effects of the film. But even while that was happening all through 2nd and 3rd October, some hardliners raised a controversy over Saif Ali Khan’s get-up in Adipurush. They screamed from every available platform and shouted from rooftops that Saif’s get-up made him look more like Khilji or Aurangzeb than Ravana whom he actually portrays in the film slated for release on 12th January, 2023. The television news channels were quick to jump in. Every news channels worth its name organised panel discussions to talk about the ‘blasphemous’ act of director Om Raut in presenting Saif in the film based an epic Ramayana.

I was invited on at least ten such panel discussions but opted to be a part of only one such TV debate. And I must say, I regretted my decision. I realised that those condemning Saif’s make-up spoke so rudely and so authoritatively that I almost thought, they had descended from Ravana’s family. The TV host pretended to be doing a balancing act but it didn’t require much grey matter to understand that he was gleefully setting up those mouthing venom against those not raising a hue and cry over the get-up.

One panelist even said, film people purposely do “such things” to create controversies so that they can benefit from them (controversies) in the form of enhanced box-office collections. My question to him: Who creates the controversy — the film people or people like him? If he was so convinced that the film people did such things on purpose, why was he, in the first place, playing into their hands by actually creating the controversy? If I didn’t ask him this question point-blank, it is because my voice was not going to be heard by him or by the host.

The lesson I learnt was that people like me — ever being invited to be on such panels — should actually refuse to bite the bait. Without an industry voice, how will there be a panel discussion?

Another thought that crossed my mind when the name of Madhya Pradesh home affairs minister Narottam Mishra cropped up in the same TV debate was that the industry should forthwith refrain from shooting their films in the state. If the state’s home affairs minister talks in such derogatory terms about the film industry, shouldn’t the industry show some self-respect and strike out the name of M.P. from its list of coveted shooting destinations? This is the least it should do! Names of other states can be similarly struck off the list if the M.P. example is emulated by them.

Ram’s own land, Ayodhya, must still be weeping that the film about the same God, which chose the historical place for its teaser launch, should have been at the receiving end for such an inconclusive issue. After all, who from among those crying themselves hoarse about the screen Ravana’s get-up, actually knows how Ravana looked in reality?!?

– Komal Nahta