Boycott Pathaan row: How it began and what’s happening now

"Social media is often driven by a narrowness of view making it divisive and destructive. Cinema brings to the fore humanity's immense capacity for compassion, unity and brotherhood," Shah Rukh Khan's said while the 'Besharam Rang' controversy was blowing up.

Shah Rukh Khan and Deepika Padukone starrer Pathaan’s latest song ‘Besharam Rang’ has taken the internet by storm, all for the wrong reasons. From religious identities and ideologies to the colour of the clothes worn by the actors, the song has whipped up a storm, thanks to the right-wing brigade.

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What is the controversy about?

On December 12, SRK-Deepika’s upcoming film Pathaan released its first song called ‘Besharam Rang’. Composed by Vishal and Shekhar and sung by Shilpa Rao, Padukone and SRK are seen dancing to the song set on a coast. However, what caught the eye of most Hindutva supporters, mainly the Madhya Pradesh home minister Narottam Mishra who took objection to Padukone’s costume – a saffron-coloured bikini.

According to Narottam, the clothes are “highly objectionable” and it is clearly visible that this song was filmed out of a “contaminated mentality”.

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Additionally, the title of the song which translated to shameless colour became a point of topic with many equating it to Padukone’s saffron bikini and concluding that the song is “hurting Hindu religious sentiments”.

Ban Pathaan and Boycott Pathaan hashtags started trending

Soon after the release, many Hindutva supporters started a hate campaign against the movie and its lead actors called #BanPathaan #BoycottPathaan. This is in continuation with #BoycottBollywood which was amplified after actor Sushant Singh Rajput’s death in June 2020.

Many Hindu right-wing supporters including members of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) condemned the song. Tweets and interviews against the song started trending the #BanPathaan, #BoycottPathaan #BoycottBollywood. Here are some of them

BJP’s state spokesperson and advocate Gaurav Goel tweeted

BJP and Hindutva leaders threaten Pathaan makers

After MP’s home minister Narottam Mishra said he would not let the movie released in the state if the makers do not ‘correct’ the song, others jumped into the wagon.

In an interview in Hindi, he said, “The outfits that have been worn in the song are objectionable. It is evident that polluted minds are behind filming this song. Anyway, Deepika Padukone has been a supporter of the Tukde Tukde gang when she went for the JNU protests and that is why, I would like to request that they should correct the visuals of the song, correct the costumes, or else the permission to release this film in MP should be given or not will be a thinkable question.”

Resonating Narottam’s views, Maharashtra’s BJP MLA Ram Kadam said Pathaan was “insulting towards Hindutva” and “will not be allowed” in the state.

BJP leader Rajesh Kesarwani said, “Vulgarity with saffron colour was being committed in a song in the movie and it is an insult to the Hindu community and Sanatan culture. Hence, we have expressed our concern.”

Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) joint general secretary Surendra Jain called Khan “arrogant” and said that “If SRK doesn’t apologize, we will not allow the release of the movie Pathaan.”

In Bihar, Bajrang Dal and Vishwa Hindu Parishad workers staged a protest on Saturday in Bhopal asking for a ban on the movie.

Raising slogans of Jai Shree Ram, they said that the Hindu society is being defamed deliberately. They also threatened to stop the shooting of SRK’s other movies that are currently being shot in Jabalpur.

A petition has been filed in a court in Muzaffarpur district where the complainant, Sudhir Ojha, accuses SRK and Padukone of hurting Hindu sentiments, PTI reported. The hearing will be heard on January 3.

Communist Party of India (Marxist) leader Chigurupati Babu Rao on Thursday took a jibe at the newly released ‘Besharam Rang’ song of Bollywood actor Shah Rukh Khan and Deepika Padukone and said that it was better to feed any hungry person than watching ‘Pathaan’. “It is better to feed a hungry person than paying to watch Pathaan,” Babu Rao said while slamming the song ‘Besharam Rang’.

SRK has always been targeted by Hindu extremist groups due to his religious identity and earlier interviews, mostly before 2014. Padukone had once stood in solidarity with JNU students who were protesting against the CAB (Citizenship Amendment Bill) and NRC (National Register of Citizens).

Support and love for Pathaan

The Indian film fraternity has reacted to the hate with immense love and support for SRK and Padukone. ‘Raees’ movie director Rahul Dholakia expressed his anger on Twitter. He wrote, ”The hate attack (for years now) on @iamsrk should be condemned by one and all in the film industry. SRK has contributed more to our fraternity and India as an ambassador of entertainment & cinema; than most people have. Please tell these bigots with idiotic theories to Shut Up!

Mirzya director Onir also tweeted in support of the makers of the movie. He slammed a bunch of politicians for criticising the Besharam Rang song in the movie. He tweeted, ”Can’t imagine that the most important thing to debate for a bunch of politicians (whose claim to fame is propagating hate and dividing the country & instigating violence) & the mainstream media is the costume worn by two actors for a song!”

He also re-shared a video from a news channel (News 24) in which BJP leader Sadhvi Pragya spoke against Pathaan. Reacting to the video, Onir wrote,” No point of film certification board/judiciary/law enforcement agencies .. now goons will decide what we watch. Terrible times …”

Bahubali producer Shobu Yarlagadda and actor Prakash Raj while expressing their anger targeted people seeking a ban on the movie in their tweets respectively. 

Actress Swara Bhaskar tweeted in Hindi, ”मिलिए हमारे देश के सत्ताधारी राजनेताओं से.. अभिनेत्रियों के कपड़ों को देखने से फ़ुरसत मिलती तो क्या पता कुछ काम भी कर लेते?!?” which roughly translates to “Meet the ruling politicians of our country.. If you had free time to look at the clothes of actresses, who knows, you would have done some work too.”

At the 28th Kolkata International Film Festival hosted by chief minister Mamata Banerjee, Megastar Amitabh Bachchan spoke on right to civil liberties and freedom of expression.

Journalist Alishan Jafri shared an old NDTV interview with SRK and pointed out the actor’s stand on religious intolerance.

Another journalist Kaushik Raj pointed out how SRK is constantly targeted for his religious identity.

SRK’s reaction

While Padukone has not reacted to the hate hailed on her, SRK reacted by saying the only way forward is to remain positive.

“Social media is often driven by a narrowness of view making it divisive and destructive. Cinema brings to the fore humanity’s immense capacity for compassion, unity and brotherhood,” he said in his speech at the Kolkata International Film Festival.

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