It is rare for a filmmaker to do justice to a book; and a controversial book at that? It is obvious that all the noise that has been made about the Da Vinci Code has more to do with the loud religious politics of our times than with cinema.
All the loud protests against the movie prompted more than one government, state and national to review the movie even as early critics ranted the movie dragged and did not do justice to the book.
Quite clearly, few of the loud critics and even less of the louder protestors had seen the movie or even perhaps read the book. Had they read the book and then seen the movie, they would have appreciated the cinematic translation of an excellent 'can we call it a religious thriller?
It is rare these days to come across well-made movies, which do not descend, into mindless violence or mild porn. Here was one of them, raising a very interesting and valid question mark over an accepted religious theory.
Incidentally the question mark raised has been around for a long time and cause of much bloodshed in the past, along with a handful of other questions.
Similar questions have, in our times, been raised prominently about other religious beliefs as well, with equally vociferous and organized protests.
The revival of the role of THE WOMAN in religion is another sign of the times. The Earth Goddess goes back to pre historic times, whether it be the Nordic cultures, the Egyptian one or our own.
It was only in much later times that the Goddesses were relegated into the background by aggressive Male Gods and their male messengers. Which could be the gist of Dan Brown's story of the female last surviving member of the line of Jesus Christ, around whom the entire organized Christian religion's various branches revolve.
Another recent example of politics overtaking cinema is the controversy over the ban on Fanaa, by the Gujarat BJP, merely because the actor chose to speak out on a subject, which remains a controversial one.
There are two sides to every coin and the issue of big dams remains one of the biggest controversies of our times. For reasons of his own, a leading film actor spoke out, reiterating what the Supreme Court had declared that the rehabilitation of those affected by the dam, must be carried out alongside with the raising of the dam itself.
Of course, therein lies a tale. Rehabilitation has been played around with both by red tapist babus and the leading NGOs pretending to be helping the project affected. And over the decades since the announcement of the land-for-land policy, the project affected have become smart enough to play off one end against the other.
How many people know that the rehabilitation policy announced in the 1980s had promised a separate piece of land, minimum 2 hectares to every son over 18 years. In the quarter century since then, how many new born sons have already crossed the 18 year barrier to swell the numbers of project affected families requiring rehabilitation, thanks to the intervention of NGO leaders like Medha Patkar more interested in delay than in actual rehabilitation?
Ignorance cannot be an excuse for a violation of law. Yet a proud party like the BJP, which regularly sends up a bevy of cinema and TV stars to parliament, chose to take objection to Fanaa, merely because its hero, Amir Khan had spoken out on another subject altogether!!
The BJP Lok Sabha, Vijay Kumar Malhotra actually demanded an apology from the actor for hurting the sentiments of the people of Gujarat. Which people? What sentiments? Are the tribal evacuees of the dam not Gujaratis? Are their lives not uprooted by the rehabilitation program, whether or not it is effective? Are only urban populaces, big farmers and industrialists the only Gujaratis?
It remains an open question whether the BJP ire against Amir Khan is because he sat alongside a Medha Patkar who is virtually Persona Non Grata in a BJP ruled Gujarat or because he is himself a Muslim actor who had earlier spoken on the anti Muslim moves of the state government, on which the Supreme Court too had passed strictures.
Another Aamir Khan-starrer "Rang De Basanti" ran into trouble, not with the BJP, but with their ally, Maneka Gandhi over the use of animals for shooting and the inappropriate projection of the MiG aircraft. Both were settled in time for the release of the films.
An earlier film, Bandit Queen had run into trouble allegedly for a rape scene and expletives, which can hardly be a case when every modern movie show cases rapes and item numbers and the use of expletives has crossed gender boundaries as a matter of rule rather than exception.
Indian cinema seems to be building up a history of sorts of cinema bans' the Hindutva lobby would not even allow the shooting of Water in Benares'and sparked off the exodus of film directors to foreign locales which are now minting money out of Indian film shoots, while desi locales languish.
When the south protested against Hindi, the Shiva Sean had banned films made at southern centers. When a film called 'hum saya' had an anti-Chinese theme, the Left was unhappy, although the very eminent Chetan Anand produced a film about the 1962 aggression with ease because it was the right time then.
Why is sauce for goose not sauce for gander too? No body raised objections to the Big B singing a song under the shower with Shashi Kapoor in the old days. Presumably under the shower both were nude and everyone knows what happens in boarding schools etc. But the slightest suggestion of a woman-woman relation in Fire had so-called purists up in arms against the film, its director and her next venture, Water. It is the Indian public, which is the ultimate loser, as the film was made and released abroad.
Often the underlings who are active in film banning, rather than the person portrayed. There was that huge controversy over whether the lady politicians portrayed in 'Aandhi' was the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi or Maharani Gayatri Devi. The film was first banned and then allowed to run, a huge hit even in frequent re runs.
The same cannot be said of the Emergency banned "Kissa Kursi Ka" which remained in the doghouse much much longer and did not earn many accolades when it was finally released decades later.
Another issue is whether or not such media hype, positive or negative will actually help the run of the film. In our times, a film that completes a month in a cinema celebrates in the manner that producers used to celebrate silver jubilees in earlier times. Hence perhaps the rash of prerelease publicity runs and stunts.