Confusion over the title of a hotly anticipated Bollywood production almost resulted in it being banned by a Delhi district court. A petition was filed against the film – originally titled Ram Leela – due to its association with the Hindu deity Rama.
“The court's order came on 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,” reported The Times of India.
In India, the term “Ram Leela” is associated with the life story of Rama – the seventh avatar of Vishnu and among the most popular gods in Hinduism. The critics were concerned that the film, which has no connection to the divine figure, would confuse audience members who might be attracted to the title for religious reasons.
The name change, to Goliyon Ki Rasleela Ram-Leela, came just 48 hours ahead of the film’s scheduled release date of November 15. Director Sanjay Leela Bhansali made a statement earlier today clarifying the film’s content.
“It appears that some misinformation is being carried out regarding [Goliyon Ki Rasleela Ram-Leela] which we would like to clarify and state that [it] is inspired and based on William Shakespeare’s work Romeo and Juliet,” Bhansali wrote in a statement. “The said film is neither related to ‘Ramleela’ folklore/traditional performance associated with Lord Ram nor related to ‘Rasleela’ associated with Lord Krishna. Ram, the character in the said film does not depict or resemble Lord Rama in any manner.”
Many fans were disappointed that the film was dragged into a religious controversy in the first place, calling it a violation of free speech.
“Ram Leela release delayed again? India is a bad place for artists. Constitution requires serious amendments to ensure freedom for art!” said one Twitter user. “Ban on Ram Leela is a clear suppression of democratic ‘Right of Expression,’” said another.
Goliyon Ki Rasleela Ram-Leela stars Bollywood powerhouses Ranveer Singh and Deepika Padukone. Ranveer, who underwent a rigorous 12-week boot camp in order to get in prime physical shape for his leading role, allegedly ate every two hours in order to build muscle mass. Deepika made headlines by refusing to postpone filming despite “piercing pain” in her back, shoulder and feet. She opted for a medical brace, hidden beneath her costume, to avoid delays.
Though Bollywood films rarely penetrate the international market, Goliyon Ki Rasleela Ram-Leela will screen at the Marrakesh International Film Festival on November 29.