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Controversy Erupts Over ‘Maharaj’: Hindu Groups Protest Alleged Misrepresentation in Upcoming Film

The city of Mumbai witnessed a significant protest on June 3, as members of the Bajrang Dal, a youth wing of the Vishva Hindu Parishad, assembled outside the headquarters of Yash Raj Films. The collective was united in their demand for halting the release of the imminent film ‘Maharaj,’ marking the acting debut of Junaid Khan, son of acclaimed actor Aamir Khan. The core of their grievance lies in the portrayal of the character played by Jaideep Ahlawat, who is depicted as a Hindu guru. The protestors assert that the film, directed by Siddharth P. Malhotra and produced under the aegis of YRF Entertainment by Aditya Chopra, disparages Hindu Dharma and its deities.

The Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP) has expressed profound concerns. In a written statement, the organization voiced strong objections to the film’s poster, which they believe suggests a derogatory depiction of Hinduism. The letter elaborated, “Seeing the poster of the film, it appears that the film depicts Hindu Dharma in a derogatory manner. We have heard that in this film, Hindu deities like Lord Krishna are mocked and insulted. This is an attempt to tarnish the image of Hindu Dharma and cause social discord among Hindus.”

The controversy gained momentum as Gautam K. Ravriya, a prominent member of the Vishva Hindu Parishad, took to Twitter to voice his concerns. “As per our sources contents of the film Maharaj is anti-Hindu and Anti-Dharma, if our concerns are found to be true then we will go all out against the producers and the platform. Pl note that you must not test our patience,” his tweet read, tagging relevant authorities including the producers and Mumbai Police.

In their public plea, the VHP requested the immediate suspension of the film’s screening and urged that it be reviewed by the Bajrang Dal and Vishva Hindu Parishad before its official release. Emphasizing the importance of respecting freedom of expression, the statement added, “It is our request to immediately stop the screening of this film and show it to the Bajrang Dal and Vishva Hindu Parishad before its public release. We fully respect freedom of expression, but it should not mean continuous insult to Hindu Dharma and its deities. The Hindu society will not tolerate the insult of Dharma.

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Protests outside Yash Raj Films saw numerous placards and chants calling for respect and sensitivity towards Hindu sentiments. One protestor stated, “We are peaceful people, but we will not tolerate any form of insult towards our religion.”

Despite the escalating protests, the filmmakers have maintained a stance of silence, choosing not to engage publicly with the agitators thus far. Speculation continues to swirl over how the film portrays Hindu deities and religious contexts, though no official statement has been released by the production team to clarify these claims.

‘Maharaj’ promises a gripping historical narrative set in 1862, a time when India was grappling with the repercussions of the Sepoy Mutiny of 1857. Against this backdrop, the film introduces audiences to a landmark legal battle, a true story that echoes the enduring struggle for justice and reform. The official logline of the film states, “Rabindranath Tagore is a year old and the Sepoy Mutiny of 1857 continues to fan the flames of independence. Against all odds, one man takes a courageous stand in a landmark legal battle, a true story that’s now come to light in Maharaj — more than 160 years later.”

The character at the film’s epicenter is Karsandas Mulji, a journalist and social reformer who championed women’s rights and social change. As a student at Elphinstone College in Mumbai and a protégé of the renowned scholar and leader Dadabhai Naoroji, Mulji wrote extensively on issues like widow remarriage, advocating relentlessly for the oppressed.

Netflix and Yash Raj Films are set to bring these acts of valor to the screen with ‘Maharaj’. The film not only introduces Junaid Khan to the silver screen but also casts Jaideep Ahlawat, Sharvari, and Shalini Pandey in pivotal roles. This high-stakes narrative is poised to make its debut on June 14 on Netflix.

Echoing the sentiments of many involved in the production, an insider revealed, “Maharaj is a story about bravery, justice, and historical significance. We trust that the audiences will appreciate the storytelling for its merits and contextual accuracy.”

As the release date nears, all eyes are on the film and the responses it will evoke, both in terms of cinematic acclaim and the ongoing protests. The filmmakers hope that dialogue and mutual understanding prevail, underscoring the delicate balance between creative expression and cultural sensitivity.

(With inputs from ANI)