Allegations against Bhansali’s Ram-Leela – just or unjust

The members of Prabhu Samaj Dharmik Ram Leela Committee filed a suit with a Delhi court seeking a ban on the release of Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Ram-Leela on the basis of such allegations as reference to “Ramleela” in the title, and depiction of sex as well as violence in the movie. However, the Delhi Court lifted the ban yesterday, and the movie released peacefully in Delhi and the other parts of the country. In this article, I have tried to illustrate why the allegations brought against Bhansali’s latest directorial venture were not just in light of the following reasons.

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The title of the movie Ram-Leela is a coined phrase of two words – Ram and Leela. Ramlila or Ramleela that refers to the dramatic enactment of Lord Ram’s war with Ravana in the Ramayana is a single word. The Delhi Court should understand the difference between the coined phrase ‘Ram-Leela’ and the single word ‘Ramlila’. The Sanjay Leela Bhansali movie is titled in the same fashion as Yash Chopra’s Veer-Zaara, released in 2004.

A ban has been brought upon the release of the movie in Delhi alleging that the content of the movie has nothing to do with the title “Ram-Leela”. According to the petitioners, the title and the content go in different directions. According to them, the title implies something related to Lord Ram’s life, while the content is steeped in “sex, violence and vulgarity”, which hurt the religious sentiments of Hindus.

The petitioners would not have brought this allegation against Ram-Leela starring Deepika Padukone and Ranveer Singh if they had watched Grand Masti and Suddha Desi Romance. Grand Masti would have given them a better definition of “sex, violence, and vulgarity”. Shuddha Desi Romance starring Sushwant Rajput and Parineeti Chopra in the lead is full of kisses from the beginning to the end. Even the posters of Grand Masti, displayed at public places were distinctly expressive of indecency and vulgarity. It seems that a vulgar film is not vulgar unless it has a Hindu god’s name in the title, for the petitioners.

The petitioners from Delhi seems to live in the primitive age, on the basis of their allegation that people would go by the title “Ram-Leela” and expect the film to be a celluloid depiction of Lord Ram’s life. They have not specified any place where it may happen unfortunately. The trailers of the movie were released on YouTube around two months back. Tier 2 and tier 3 cities have easy access to YouTube for far-reaching penetration of the Internet. It is evident from the increasing number of Internet users in India, which is going to surpass the 205 million Internet users in the USA. Conventional media – electronic (TV and Radio) and print (newspaper) – have been dising out news articles about the star cast, music album, choreography and other facets of the film to the rural backwaters of India where Internet has yet not reached out to.

The members of the Prabhu Samaj Dharmik Ram Leela Committee should have noticed the film’s tagline “Galiyon Ki Rasleela” before filing a suit against the release in Delhi. Rasleela means premleela, and that is not related to Ramleela by any means. From the tag line, it is much clear that the film is a love story which is a common find in the lanes and alleys of India these days. In fact, Rasleela refers to an ethnic dance drama that depicts Lord Krishna’s engagement with his female admirers Gopis. Rasleela is a visual display of devotion to Lord Krishna in the Hindu religion. Thanks to God, the petitioners have not made a fuss over the use of Rasleela in the tagline.

To mention in this context, what the petitioners have ignored is the role of Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Ram-Leela in the promotion of Gujarati culture not only at home but also abroad. Unlike other Bollywood directors, Sanjay Leela Bhansali makes culture-oriented, substantial movies like Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam in which we have already seen his efforts to highlight the Gujarati culture and life through the sensitive portrayal of characters and the flawless depiction of a triangle love story.

If the petitioners are so much concerned about the religious sentiments of Hindus in the country, they should have objected to the use of the devotional “Raghupati Raghav Raja Ram” in the lyrics of a party song in the music album of Krrish 3 starring Hrithik Roshan, Kangana and Priyanka in the lead cast.  “Raghupati Raghav Raja Ram” is all about devotion and divinity that the Krrish 3 song has nothing to do with.

You may have your reasons to support the allegations against Bhansali’s Ram-Leela, and disagree with me. The reasons, cited above in defiance of the allegations, are solely my observations.

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