Ram-leela in legal trouble
This has perhaps come as no surprise to industry watchers. There’s a film, big-budget, much talked about, with a name like Ram-Leela. Could controversy have been far behind? The film had already seen its fair share of hiccups in the form of ‘objections’ to the use of the phrase ‘Ram-leela’ in the title, including a PIL filed in the Allahabad Court, pending review petition; a ban order which was subsequently quashed by the Delhi High Court, which had refused to ban the movie and had also imposed a fine of 50,000 on the NGO which had moved court on the grounds of the movie ‘hurting religious sentiments’. And it looks like there’s more to overcome for director Sanjay Leela Bhansali before he breathes easy over the release of his film.Arm-twisting tactics once again?
For now, at the nth hour, Bhansali once again finds himself facing arm-twisting tactics, having to contend with more legal wrangles regarding the film. One of them is a random complaint filed in September under Section 295-A (deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings) of the Indian Penal Code. Bhansali, and the lead actors of the film, Ranveer Singh and Deepika Padukone, had filed a petition in the Punjab and Haryana High Court then, seeking that the FIR registered against them in Jalandhar be quashed. Based on that petition, the state’s HC has now issued a notice to the Punjab government, to file its reply before November 14, the next date of hearing in court.
But this hasn’t ensured that the film’s team can rest easy. The film’s release is now in trouble in Delhi, too. On Tuesday, the Karkardooma Court of Delhi issued a restraining order on the use of the phrase Ram-leela in the title of the film, because it felt that a suit filed by six petitioners, including Prabhu Samaj Dharmik Ram Leela Committee, saying the movie hurt the religious sentiments of Hindus as it contains sex, violence and vulgarity, was valid. According to Surender Paul, the Delhi distributor for this film, “The court’s decision is only for Delhi and not for other states. The news channel has wrongly shown that the ban is across the entire country.” Though the restraining order impacts only Delhi, it is still a big market for the movie. And so, according to sources, the Eros legal team reached the district court on Wednesday to request the court to lift the restraining order.
It will be sorted: exhibitors
However, the movie theatres in Delhi are not aware of the restraining order, or the Punjab state’s stay on the release of the film, having no intimation whatsoever of the same. Some of them even opened advance booking counters on Wednesday, quite hopeful that even if there is ‘some issue’, it will be resolved before the movie’s release date, November 15.
Anant Verma, director and business head, DT Cinemas, says, “The film has got all valid certificates from the Censor Board. I am pretty sure the issue will be resolved. We have not been conveyed anything by anyone – neither the court nor the distributors – and so, we are not aware of any controversy.” Vishal Anand, senior vice-president, operations and sales, Fun Multiplex Pvt Ltd, adds, “We have not got any information. We have opened the advance booking as well. If we get any notice, we will follow it, but as of now, we have got no information regarding this matter.” RK Mehrotra, general manager, Delite, is also confident, “Distributors apne lawyers ke saath court mein hain. Jab High Court ne plea reject kar diya tha toh mujhe nahi lagta District Court ka koi role reh jayega. The lawyers will manage to lift whatever order it has imposed.”
Yogesh Raizada, corporate head, Wave Cinemas, presents another angle to why all cases against the title of the film can be quashed easily. “The issue is with the name of the movie, which is perceived as being ‘Ram-Leela’. But, the actual name of the movie is Goliyon Ki Rasleela – Ram-Leela – the name it has been registered with at the CBFC. Although in the posters, Ram-Leela has been given prominence, the legal team will definitely argue on this ground and will resolve the case before November 15.”
The spokesperson for PVR cinemas was also sure that the film will come unscathed through all these legal hiccups. “The Delhi issue is not big and will be sorted out. The film’s team is trying to sort out the Punjab issue. We will be screening it, and we are pretty sure of a smooth and large opening. In fact, we have got a lot of corporate booking for this film.”