Dehradun, Uttarakhand: After the Sara Ali Khan and Sushant Singh Rajput film Kedarnath was banned in several Uttarakhand districts, a state minister said the government would henceforth consider reviewing a movie’s script before granting it permission to shoot. Kedarnath is the debut movie of Saif Ali Khan’s daughter Sara. It was shot in Kedarnath and shows the love story of a spunky Brahmin girl and an affable Muslim porter.
Uttarakhand tourism minister Satpal Maharaj said that while the state government is committed to promoting Uttarakhand as a shooting destination, it also wants to honour the sentiments of people who have faith in Lord Kedarnath. He said the shrine holds great importance for crores of Hindus and added that it is unfortunate that some scenes in the movie “were found to be objectionable”. He said that going forward, the state government would consider vetting a movie’s script before allowing shooting in Uttarakhand if it pertains to “sensitive issues.”
The screening of Kedarnath has been banned as a precautionary measure to avoid “disruption of peace”. The movie, set in the backdrop of the June 2013 natural tragedy that killed thousands of pilgrims in the temple town of Kedarnath, was released countrywide on 7 December.
The trouble began with the launch of the movie trailer on 12 November. Be it priests of the Kedarnath temple, pro-Hindu organisations or BJP leaders, the trailer was met with vehement disapproval and sparked protests across the state.
Consequently, the state government set up a four-member committee comprising Tourism Minister Maharaj, home secretary, information secretary and DGP to examine the objections against the film. The committee members watched the movie and met Chief Minister Trivendra Singh Rawat on Thursday evening, a day before its release. In the meeting, it was decided that the state government would not ban the movie and instead leave the decision to district administrations. District magistrates were informed about this by late evening and they promptly passed orders banning the film, citing threat of disruption of peace.
Of the hilly state’s 13 districts, only seven have movie theatres and Kedarnath has been banned in all of them. These districts are Dehradun, Haridwar, Pauri, Tehri, Nainital, Udhamsingh Nagar and Almora.
The movie’s detractors have cited the following objections with its content: the female protagonist, a Brahmin, falls for a Muslim youth. Many BJP leaders have claimed the movie is surreptitiously promoting ‘love jihad’. Protesters claim the movie’s tagline ‘Love is a pilgrimage’ hurts Hindus’ religious sentiments. They also contend that the kissing scene in the movie, the lead couple’s romance and “vulgar” dance sequences set in the holy town are unacceptable. The male lead’s character is that of a Muslim youth who carries pilgrims on his back to the temple town. Protesters claim no Muslim can be found doing this in Kedarnath.
High courts reject bans
Nainital High Court told the petitioner’s advocate they should not watch the movie and they are actually publicising the very work they want banned by making an issue out of it. This petition was filed by Dehradun-based activist and convener of Uttarakhand Raksha Abhiyan Swami Darshan Bharti. Gujarat High Court called the petition a publicity stunt and imposed a fine of Rs 5,000 on the petitioner Prakash Rajput, president of International Hindu Sena.
The petition in Bombay High Court was filed by two local lawyers. Legal representatives of the movie’s producers as well as the Censor Board opposed the petition, which contended that Kedarnath’s story is imaginary and an “untrustworthy tale of love” between a Muslim youth and a Brahmin girl.
State Congress spokesperson Garima Mehra Dasauni said that while the Congress is in favour of promoting shooting in Uttarakhand, it is important to ensure that the said movie does not hurt religious sentiments. She said instead of banning the entire movie, it’s advisable to remove the objectionable scenes from it. Also, she contended that the movie’s name should be changed from Kedarnath to something else as it’s not a religious film but a romantic one.
GS Rana, manager of Prabhat cinema, one of the oldest theatres in Uttarakhand’s temporary capital Dehradun, said members of a pro-Hindu group paid a visit Thursday before the movie was banned and demanded that Kedarnath’s posters be removed. He said the theatre received the district administration’s notice regarding the ban in the evening and hence the movie was not screened. He pointed out that theirs is a single-screen theatre and the last-minute ban meant the establishment did not earn a single penny on Friday.
Darshan Bharti, whose petition seeking ban on the film was rejected by Nainital High Court, said the movie’s makers have tried to play with the sentiments of the Hindus by showing a love story of a Muslim porter and a Brahmin girl. He asserted it was nothing but ‘love jihad’ and a country-wide conspiracy.