Adipurush: Indian film dialogue sparks Bollywood ban in Nepal cities

Prabhas and Kriti Sanon in Adipurush poster
Image caption,Adipurush stars Indian stars Prabhas (left) and Kriti Sanon

By Meryl Sebastian

BBC News

Officials from two cities in Nepal have said they will not allow Bollywood films to be screened until an “objectionable” line is deleted from a new Indian movie.

The makers of Adipurush say the film is inspired by the Hindu epic Ramayana.

The Ramayana depicts the victory of Hindu god Ram over the demon king Ravana after the latter kidnaps his wife, Sita.

In the film, the main characters are called Raghav, Lankesh and Janaki.

The mayors of Kathmandu and Pokhara have criticised a line that calls Janaki “India’s daughter”.

Hindus in Nepal – about 80% of the country’s population – believe that Sita was born in Janakpur, a city about 220km (136 miles) away from capital Kathmandu.

Balendra Shah, mayor of Kathmandu, said in a Facebook post on Sunday that he had asked theatres in the city to stop screening all Bollywood films. He added that he had asked the makers of Adipurush to remove the dialogue.

“No Indian film will be allowed to be screened in the Kathmandu municipality area until this objectionable part is removed from the film,” Mr Shah wrote.

Indian news agency ANI reported that Dhanraj Acharya, the mayor of Pokhara Metropolitan City, had also asked theatres to stop screening the movie.

The film’s co-writer Manoj Muntashir Shukla said on Sunday that some dialogues would be re-written and inserted again into the movie as they had “hurt” viewers, but it’s not clear if he was referring to people in India or Nepal.

“I wrote more than 4,000 lines of dialogue for Adipurush, but some sentiments were hurt by five lines,” he said.

ANI also reported that the film’s producer T-Series had written to Mr Shah, saying there was no intention “to cause any disharmony”. The BBC has emailed T-Series for comment.

Adipurush, which stars Indian actors Prabhas, Kriti Sanon and Saif Ali Khan, opened to negative reviews on Friday. Several Indian viewers criticised its visual effects as well as some dialogues that they said trivialised the characters of the much-revered epic.

Calls to ban the movie are trending on social media since Friday, but T-Series tweeted on Saturday that the film had a “bumper opening”.

Many opposition leaders also criticised the film, with some calling for a ban.

Bhupesh Baghel, chief minister of Chhattisgarh state, who is from the Congress party, called the language used in the film “indecent” and said the state would consider banning it.

Shiv Sena MP Priyanka Chaturvedi said the film had crossed boundaries while making a film on Ram, who is referred to by believers as ‘Maryada Purushottam’ or the ideal man.

The makers of the film have thanked several leaders from the governing Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party in the credits of the film.

Indian film writer and director Om Raut (C) gestures during the trailer launch of his upcoming mythological movie 'Adipurush' in Mumbai on May 9, 2023.
Image caption,Om Raut, the director of Adipurush, at the film’s trailer launch in May

Reports say the film is one of the most expensive to be made in India and was released in more than 6,000 screens. It was simultaneously shot in Hindi and Telugu and dubbed in other Indian languages.

The film started making headlines months ago – in October, when its teaser was released, viewers mocked its cartoon-like computer graphics and visual similarities to shows such as Game of Thrones.

Since its release, there have also been reports of sporadic protests against the film, challenging the depiction of its characters.

Researchers have said that there are multiple renditions of the Ramayana in India and across Southeast Asia – including one that eulogised Ravana and another that said Ram’s brother Lakshman killed the demon king.

In India, Valmiki’s Sanskrit poem http://tanyakanpada.com/ Ramayana remains the most influential. A comic book version and a 1980s TV adaptation of the epic were also hugely popular in the country.

In 2011, Delhi University dropped an essay by scholar AK Ramanujan on the various iterations of the epic after protests by hard-line Hindu groups, who complained that the versions recounted there offended religious beliefs.

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