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The other side of the coin: Aarakshan

Before Aarakshan, the only other movie that has managed to grab headlines across the country was Deepa Mehta’s Fire, way back in 1996. Depicting a lesbian relationship between Shabana Azmi and Nandita Das, the film was banned completely.

Prakash Jha’s Aarakshan, while still set for its Friday release, is obviously in some sort of competition with Fire; the film has raked up an endless pile of controversies, with only more adding on every few seconds. In political circles, it’s almost the cool thing to do to berate the film, to cast aspersions on its controversial subject matter (as the name suggests, Aarakshan deals with the sensitive issue of reservation for the backward classes).

Prakash Jha can trill in a hundred different languages that his film isn’t taking a particular stand (ie, for or against), but all of those claims seem to be falling on deaf ears.

Perhaps to quell this stream of rumours, Jha, along with his star cast–Amitabh Bachchan, Manoj Bajpai and Prateik Babbar–spoke to NDTV about the entire issue.

When asked about his reaction when the controversies first erupted, Jha was quick to mention that he wasn’t altogether surprised. He also added, somewhat noncommittally, that it wasn’t coming from the quarters he had expected. Backing into the long-standing debate on whether or not movies reflect a mass opinion, the director stood his ground, asserting that it was impossible for this medium to decide a matter so powerful in its ramifications.

Amitabh Bachchan, whose character, that of a college dean, forms the backbone of the film, asked the media and the audience to not judge the film before they see it. The Big B, whose films are almost always mired in some of controversy, adjudged that it would be premature for the cast and crew to be in the line of fire without having a chance to defend themselves.

. The film’s matter notwithstanding, even its promotional activities have been caught in political webs; in Uttar Pradesh, Mayawati’s government refused to allow the cast to hold a grand, interactive show with a live audience, after initially allowing the same. Citing “possible breach of peace” as the cause, the UP government quickly revoked all permission, leaving the cast high and dry and more than a little angry. As of now, Aarakshan opens on August 12th, with a whole host of protesters flinging allegations, threats and even veiled abuse at the film.

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