POV: You Kinda Get Both the POVs

Adipurush is all over the news; but for all the wrong reasons (or at least most of them).

If you’ve spent some time on social media this week, you must already be aware of the controversy surrounding the Prabhas and Kriti Sanon starrer. And I am not talking about the stupid and cringe-worthy dialogues like “… lanka laga denge” and “…aur jalegi bhi tere baap ki“. Man, I wouldn’t have wondered if Hanuman said, “Aye mamu, teri waat laga dalega apun” ‘cos the film actually has those tapori kinda dialogues. Please tell me you read that in Arshad Warsi’s Circuit’s voice.

No wonder, the film is at the receiving end of a lot of hatred in India. I mean, they had Ramanand Sagar’s epic Ramayan while growing up; and now they’ve got this 600 crore-rupee garbage. But that hasn’t stopped the film’s collections at the box office as the film directed by Om Raut has already earned a whopping Rs. 340 Crore at the worldwide box office within the first three days of its release. However, that doesn’t change the fact that the film is a mess; and a lot of the credit for that goes to the film’s dialogue writer Manoj Muntashir.

Now, let’s get to the point and find out why the film is a hot topic in Nepal (and not in a good way).

It all started with one dialogue that basically called Sita “a daughter of India”. Side note; Sita is believed to have been born in Janakpur (located in present-day Nepal), the kingdom of her father, King Janaka. After the Nepal censor board’s objection, the dialogue was muted for the theaters in Nepal. But it wasn’t good enough for Kathmandu Mayor Balen Shah who called for the correction of the dialogue not only from the film’s Nepal screenings but also in India and around the world. Which does make a lot of sense because hardly one percent of the film’s audiences will watch the film in Nepal; and also it’s not the Nepali people who need to be educated about Sita’s origin story but the people abroad who will most probably believe what the film will tell them.

So, Mayor Balen gave the makers three days of ultimatum to make the correction; and no wonder, they didn’t give a shit. Because that has always been the story. Neither India, nor Bollywood takes Nepal seriously. In past, Bollywood always got away by simply muting certain dialogue in Nepali theaters whenever there was any controversy; and that’s probably what they thought will happen this time as well.

But nope, this time it was Balen in front of them.

So sticking to what he had committed, Balen banned the screening of not only Adipurush, but all the Indian films in the theaters of Kathmandu. Soon enough, some other cities caught up as well; and showed their solidarity with Kathmandu Mayor’s decision for the ban until the makers actually listen and act accordingly.

Now, the decision has kinda divided the people — majority being in favor and the rest believe that it should have been limited to this particular film that did the blunder and other films should not be affected by it as they have not done anything wrong.

I can understand why people are saying so. Our cinema halls cannot survive without screening Indian films; that’s a fact — at least for now until our film industry is good enough to produce some quality films that are actually consumable. So when a single cinema hall gets shut down, it directly affects the livelihoods of dozens of families at least. Also, owning a small (like tiny, very tiny) shop by a cinema hall in Pokhara, before the Covid outbreak, which depended a lot on the number of people who went to watch a film; I have the first hand experience of knowing how important a single cinema hall — and the people who actually go and watch the film there — are for not only the people who are directly associated with the theater but also the businesses around it.

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But wait, this doesn’t necessarily mean that we have to tolerate everything, no matter how unfair it is. I totally get Balen’s POV on all of this. Bollywood won’t give a single f**k if only this particular film is banned because it won’t matter at all. The film made on a budget of approx 600 crore is almost sure to make at least 1000 crore (including satellite and OTT rights). So the couple of crores from Nepal wouldn’t really matter a lot to the producers. And anyway they’ve got their money already. It’s the Nepali distributors who will have to bear the loss. However, if all the other films too are banned; it might actually make them think; and for once, they might actually take Nepal seriously. In fact, it looks like they’ve actually started taking the matter seriously to some extent this time.

A lot of Indian media outlets have been continuously following this story; and have been giving a good coverage. And if some reports are to be believed; the producers — Super Cassettes Industries Private Limited (aka T-Series) have written a letter addressed to Mayor Balen, apologizing for hurting the sentiments of the people. “At the outset we would like to apologise if we have hurt the sentiments of the people of Nepal in any way, it was never intentional or deliberate to cause any disharmony for anyone”, the letter, which has been making rounds on social media, reads.

“The dialogoue spoken by Mr. Prabhas portraying the character of Shri Raghav, ‘aaj mere liye mat ladna, us din ke liye ladna jab Bharat ki kisi beti par haath dalne se pehle durachari tumhara paurush yaad karke thraa uthega” has no reference to the birth place of Sita Mata but refers to, in general, the dignity of all women particularly the women of “Bharat”. Having said that, as Indians the respect of women all over the world is of utmost importance to us.”

The letter is signed by Radhika Das, the Assistant Manager – Public Relation for the company (as per her LinkedIn).

Damn! That has to be a first, right?

On the other hand, Manoj Muntashir keeps making it worse. He recently went live on television to explain himself — or in simple words, justify his f**k ups with the dialogues. But when asked about the film’s controversy in Nepal; he ended up saying the country was part of India before 1903. Smh! That’s the kind of knowledge he has and that pretty much explains the film’s content. I kinda feel bad for the makers for picking such a douche of a writer.

Anyway, so what I am trying to say here is, I get Balen and his decision. Sometimes you just have to take a stand, no matter how difficult it is. I am sure the issue will be resolved sooner or later; and soon, some Bollywood star will shoot a 20-second mobile video saying, “Namaste Nepal” and then promote their upcoming film; and the people will be makkha to see them speak two or three words of Nepali. But it’s good to know that Bollywood must have got a small hint that now there is someone across the border who has the ba.., I mean guts to call you out when you’ve f**ked something up.

In a recent interview, Suraj Singh Thakuri had said that we only came to know how powerful a mayor can be after Balen came into the scene. So true.

Anyway, I really hope this thing gets sorted out soon.

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Neeraj Pun (NEO)

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