How To Create Controversies Out Of Nothing 101: Pathaan

If there were to be named one actor in Bollywood who respects women the most, it would be Shah Rukh Khan. He looks at women with “Love, Respect, Awe” and most can only hope for men to be more like him. Being a Muslim, and having a Hindu wife who calls his children “Indian”, Shah Rukh Khan is also a true believer in secularism. Yet, the Badshah finds himself stuck in a controversy with his female co-star of four times now, Deepika Padukone. 


Shah Rukh Khan-Deepika Padukone-John Abraham starring Pathaan was released on the 25th of January, 2023 and it has already broken many records at the box office. Ahead of this, a music video of the song “Besharam Rang” by Kumaar and Vishal-Shekhar was released. The song has many shortcomings which have been pointed out by critics such as its lack of originality and lame lyrics but what ignited the fire of controversy was the eye of politicians who have time and again found themselves pointing out flaws in Bollywood that are unnecessarily made about religion. 

This time it was about an outfit worn by Deepika in this new 3 minutes 14 seconds music video for just 15 seconds. “Besharam Rang” originally is just a metaphor having no relation to Deepika’s saffron outfit which occupied less than 8% of the playing time. What the orthodox public chose to see was just those 15 seconds of the clip and the title of the song and came up with the claim that the saffron colour was being called “besharam” (without shame). 

This followed many other reasons to highlight unintended religious flaws in the music video such as a Muslim man ‘indecently’ touching a woman in saffron. Protests are erupting because Hindu sentiments are allegedly being ridiculed. What was forgotten again is that this isn’t the first time the actors are working together and it is all part of acting. Fiction, which doesn’t even involve religion, isn’t allowed to remain fiction.

It wasn’t just some unsensible Hindus who took issue. A Muslim Board demanded the ban of Pathaan over “obscenity” in spite of this video not being the first to publicly show so-called indecent visuals. This seems to be a mere counter-allegation in favour of Muslim sentiments. 

The religious angle wasn’t the only way of looking at this. A retired IPS officer questioned how Ranveer Singh ‘allowed’ Deepika to get publicly molested over the controversy. This objectification of Deepika as being the property of her husband was followed by counteraction against this misogyny.

The Censor Board of Film Certification is known for over-censoring as it is. The board this time removed three scenes that showed sensuous moves and deemed it as a reasonable ground to cater to the illogical demands of a sensitive public.

The saffron costume was supposed to give a good colour palette for the oceanic shooting location but the direction the whole controversy took it towards shows how senseless reasons can be found to create chaos on the basis of religion.

-Pratyusha Pathak


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