A lot of Indian films have come under the scanner for allegedly distorting history or for overdramatizing the characters portrayed in their films. A few of such Indian films are Bandit Queen, Aśoka, Mangal Pandey: The Rising, Jodhaa Akbar, Mohenjo Daro, 7aum Arivu, Padmaavat etc. Even English (Hollywood) films like Saving Private Ryan, based on the Normandy World War Two landings, U-571 about submariners, and Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves were found guilty of a "grotesque distortion of history” by Britain’s Historians. Sir Antony James Beevor a renowned English Military Historian has even held that Americanisation of British history was a particular problem. "You can't turn every hero in the world into an American," he said.
Another classical historian Bettany Hughes had alleged that “Hollywood has committed some terrible crimes against history,” describing the Hollywood epic film Troy as a “travesty of mismatched cultural references”. She even indirectly claimed, “Dead heroes in Greco-Roman dress could not have been cremated with coins on their eyes, as money was never invented then”. Back in India, the Hon’ble Courts have been quite liberal in allowing the Indian filmmakers “creative liberties”, as long as they interalia do not defame the historical character portrayed in their films or show the said character in poor light. Also once the films are certified the Hon’ble Courts limit their personal interference in the said matter. Thus the films referred to hereinabove were duly released despite challenges, protest and/or Court litigations filed by the various outfits/persons. The Karni Sena was therefore not successful even earlier whilst seeking to ban the film Jodhaa Akbar on the ground that Akbar never had a wife named Jodhabai.
Besides the above, the Hon’ble Courts have in many cases even clarified that over dramatization of films and adding of song and dance in Historical films is not a legal wrong and the filmmakers can take creative liberties in doing so. It can therefore be seen that all filmmakers legally enjoy various unfettered creative rights and liberties, and they therefore ought to be fully aware of these rights.
Best practice for filmmakers – Conclusion
The filmmakers should first carry out proper research on the historical character, which they are seeking to portray in their films. To avoid any unwarranted and uncalled for arguments at any stage by third parties, the Filmmakers should take the assistance of Deputy Director of Archives Division (Government of India), which is the official custodian of all historical facts pertaining to India. The said Government department officially holds historical archives and can be extremely useful for Filmmakers in terms of authenticity and reliability.
Besides the filmmakers should use appropriate disclaimers in their films depending on the creative liberties taken by them.
And most importantly all filmmakers should primarily focus in getting their films completed and certified before getting into any controversy which might adversely affect the commercial success of their film.
Also never announce the release date of your film prior to receiving the Censor Certificate.
(The author has been advising and representing various film personalities as an Advocate since almost two decades)
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