For Bollywood, the year 2016 ranked high in the controversy counter writes Sugandha Rawal

From demonetisation adding to box office’s blues and calls to ban Pakistani artistes, to directors at odds with the censor board and celebrities going public with their personal battles — the biggest controversies of 2016 is quite a colourful read.

* Money trouble after demonetisation: Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced his decision to spike Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes in November.

The after-effects on showbiz? Shooting schedules were put on hold, films’ release dates were pushed forward, single-screen theatres like Regal Cinema and Golcha Cinema in Delhi ended up fighting for survival, footfalls at the multiplexes and single-screen theatres went down and pinched the box-office collection of the films.

Star power of actors like Farhan Akhtar, John Abraham, Sonakshi Sinha and Ranveer Singh could not get Bollywood out of this slumber either. Opening weekend of Farhan’s “Rock On 2” was below Rs 10 crore, while John and Sonakshi’s action thriller “Force 2” minted Rs 20.05 crore in its first weekend.

Films like “Tum Bin II”, “Dongri Ka Raja”, “Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk” and “Befikre” died quick deaths at the box-office due to demonetisation, trade insiders said.

In the end, superstars Shah Rukh Khan and Aamir Khan bailed the industry out of the cash crisis with “Dear Zindagi” and “Dangal”, respectively.

* Pakistan artistes’ ban – controversy galore: Cross-border India-Pakistan tension spilt over into the entertainment world, with some Indian political outfits imposing a ban on Pakistanis and a few Pakistani theatres pulling down Indian movies from their screens.

The calls for a ban on Pakistani talent in India created quite a stir after the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) issued them an “ultimatum” to quit India within 48 hours or face trouble. The ban came after the September 18 terror attack that killed 19 Indian soldiers in Uri in Jammu and Kashmir.

It spelt “mushkil” (trouble) for Karan Johar as his film “Ae Dil Hai Mushkil” was caught in the eye of the storm for featuring Pakistani actor Fawad Khan. Things got better when Karan came out with a video, saying he will not engage with talent from Pakistan “in the circumstances”.

* Censor hassles: No kissing, no bikini, no abuses, no same-sex couples kissing — the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) was not so liberal with its approach in 2016. The censor board implemented several cuts, which not only created controversy but irked filmmakers too.

The loudest flutter was made when it tried to alter Anurag Kashyap’s film “Udta Punjab” by demanding 89 cuts, including the removal of a reference to Punjab.

Other films to face the censor board’s scissors were “Aligarh” for its homosexual scenes, “Ae Dil Hai Mushkil” for some intimate scenes between Aishwarya Rai Bachchan and Ranbir Kapoor and “Befikre” for same-sex kissing.

* Piracy trouble: From “Udta Punjab” and “Great Grand Masti” getting leaked even before their release, to the prints of “Kabali”, “Mohenjo Daro”, “Rustom” and now “Dangal” surfacing online — the ghost of piracy loomed large on the Indian film industry this year. It not only stumped industry professionals but also fuelled the long-standing debate on how piracy could be tackled.

* Insensitive remarks by actors: Bollywood’s “Bajrangi Bhaijaan” Salman Khan courted controversy by saying that training for wrestling for film “Sultan” left him feeling like a “raped woman”.

Actor Om Puri also drew ire for his insensitive comments on Indian martyrs. Even actress Priyanka Chopra got into trouble when she posed for a magazine cover wearing a vest with the words “Refugee, Immigrant, Outsider, Traveller”. Many people called it “elitist”, “offensive” and “insensitive”.

* Not-so-personal any way: 2016 was a year of celebrities’ personal battles being fought in public. Actress Kangana Ranaut and actor Hrithik Roshan were caught in a murky legal battle.

The controversy between Kangana and Hrithik, who were rumoured to have been dating in the past, took an ugly turn with both slapping legal notices against each other.

Singer Arijit Singh’s public apology to Salman Khan also made headlines. The singer claimed that Salman was angry with him after he rubbed him the wrong way at an award ceremony. The “Tum hi ho” crooner urged Salman to retain the song sung by him in “Sultan”. While Salman remained silent about the whole ruckus, people close to him refuted Arijit’s claims.

(Sugandha Rawal is a columnist with IANS)

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