ApunKaChoice : Bollywood


Ashutosh Gowarikar'Jodhaa Akbar' rekindles debate between creativity and facts
14th Feb 2008  09.00 IST
By Agencies  

Historical films have always been in the thick of controversies and now with Ashutosh Gowarikar 's Jodhaa Akbar stirring up a debate, historians and the film industry feel the directors should be given some creative license but not at the expense of facts.

"A director has his own perception and that should be respected by the audience because while making a film, a filmmaker does a lot of research and study. So he should be given that creative license," says nine-time National Award winning director Jahnu Barua.

"However, giving creative liberty doesn't mean he should not be made accountable. Whenever, a director makes a film he should be responsible and should be able to defend what he is making," he says.

Agrees Prof Seema Alavi, Dept of History and Culture, Jamia Milia Islamia. "A director should have the creative liberty to play with the interpretative narrative but factual narrative should be retained," she says.

"If a historian can enjoy certain amount of interpretative liberty then why not the filmmaker?" she adds. However, film critics like Taran Adarsh feels it is debatable.

"There are people who take this creative liberty and distort facts. Since film is a mass media it is very important to stick to facts. However, if a film is based on 800 years old history whose facts are not available then a filmmaker can use his imagination. Moreover, allowing this just because historians enjoy it, is debatable," he reasons.

Whether it is a film on Mahatma Gandhi, Bhagat Singh or Mangal Pandey, the filmmakers have always found themselves in a soup as they have been either accused of distorting history or showing the protagonist in poor light.

"It does help to an extent but I don't think it can really catapult a film to success. It can create an awareness about the film but ultimately it boils down to the content," says Adarsh.

Echoing similar views Barua says, "Some amount of controversy helps the film to do well, but it is unfortunate that in our country you need a controversy to attract audience to the theatres," says Barua.

However, Mohile feels at times it is done deliberately to disrupt the promotion of the film by people with vested interest.

"Although such controversies helps the film, it may not be propelled by the producer or director of the film. There are people who at times indulge in such activities to disrupt the film promotional process," she says.

While such controversies give nightmares to the director and the producer of the film, it also leaves the Censor Board with some headaches. So how doe they deal with such controversies?

"The censor board has an examination committee and an advisory panel and so when such a controversy crops up the different members of the board takes a consensus decision which helps to reduces the subjectivity, if any," Mohile says.

Moreover, if the board feels it is not self-sufficient to take the decision, it takes the advice of specialist from the different fields like historians, police, educationists etc," she adds.

In 2002, during the release of Guddu Dhanoa 's 23rd March 1931, Shaheed and Rajkumar Santoshi 's The Legend of Bhagat Singh , a Delhi-based NGO had raised objections to the role of Bhagat Singh's love interest in the films and questioned the authenticity of the films.

Similarly when 'Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose: The Forgotten Hero' directed by Shyam Benegal was released, a controversy had cropped up about the portrayal of Netaji's relationship with Emilie Schenkl.

Films like Feroz Abbas Khan 's Gandhi, My Father , J. P. Dutta 's Umrao Jaan , Ketan Mehta 's 'Mangal Pandey- The Rising ', Santosh Sivan 's Asoka and Deepa Mehta 's Water from time to time have been in some controversy or the other. So are these controversies inevitable?

Says Prof Dilbagh Singh, centre of historical studies, JNU, "Any depiction of history will always hurt the sentiment of a certain section of people. Since the historians who wrote this history may have been affected by some factors so 100 per cent objectivity is impossible."

Sharing his viewpoint, Aparna Mohile, former chairman, Central Board of Film Censors says, "India is a land of great diversity and every section has its own perception of history so naturally when a film is made on a historical character there is bound to be a difference of opinion."

Prof Alavi gives a different perceptive. "Films are a commercial proposition and fiction cannot absolutely represent facts of history but that doesn't mean that a film should not be made."

Controversies may be an inevitable part of historical films but does it also help to generate more revenues for the film? Well, the film fraternity feels it does.

Ashutosh Gowarikar
Jodhaa Akbar
Guddu Dhanoa
Rajkumar Santoshi
The Legend of Bhagat Singh
Shyam Benegal
Feroz Abbas Khan
J. P. Dutta
Umrao Jaan
Ketan Mehta
The Rising
Santosh Sivan
Deepa Mehta

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