Too much is said every day with regard to religion in India. Yet, somehow, it is never enough. While religion and faith began as a personal connection to divine power, it has increasingly commercial in modern times. Certain age-old customs are still in practice today, even though times have changed drastically. Some ‘religious’ practices curb basic human rights and lead to discrimination among gender, caste, color, species, and more. This is a vital social issue that Bollywood has tried to address with various movies. Some of these films have also been banned by religious nationalists, fundamentalists, or protests have been held against their releases.
Take a look at these films here:
The Aamir Khan-starrer portrays the lead actor playing PK, an alien who comes to our planet on a research mission. He lands in India and is stunned by the religious practices and superstitions that exist in society. While the movie was the highest grossing film of the time, it met with heavy criticism by members of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and Bajrang Dal, as they felt the movie hurt religious sentiments.
OMG – Oh My God! (2012)
Probably one of the few times that an atheist is shown as a prominent character in movies; OMG revolves around Kanji Lalji Mehta (Paresh Rawal) and his lawsuit against God. The film attacks godmen and blind faith. Naturally, it attracted the ire of religion-driven politicians who filed cases against the lead actors. The movie was also banned in the UAE.
My Name is Khan (2010)
Karan Johar decided to speak up against Islamophobia with My Name Is Khan. A young boy is killed shortly after the 9/11 attacks, only because his last name is ‘Khan’. His step-father, Rizwan Khan (Shah Rukh Khan) embarks on a journey to meet the President of the USA and let him know while his name is "Khan", he is not a terrorist. The movie meant no harm, but the Shiv Sena took great offense against Shah Rukh, and even attempted to halt its release.
Mr. and Mrs. Iyer (2002)
Here, Konkana Sen Sharma playing Meenakshi S. Iyer, a Hindu Brahmin woman and Rahul Bose – Raja Chowdhury, a Muslim man – pretend to be a married couple, in order to protect him from a Hindu nationalist mob. What’s startling is Meenakshi’s reaction when she finds out that the man she shared a water bottle with is a Muslim. This particular scene reflects the hostility people have against those of different religions, a feeling that exists even today.
Deepa Mehta’s trilogy portrayed several social evils of the Indian society. Earth is based on the troubled times of the Partition of India, when Hindus and Muslims in the northern part of the country were baying for each other's blood. Several riots broke out in the regions close to the border, families were torn apart, and friends turned foe. The movie shows all of that and the spoils of war, which is a country divided by ill religious beliefs.
Another movie from Deepa Mehta’s trilogy, this one threw light on child marriage and the treatment of widows in the country. As a widow, a woman is not allowed to remarry, as per traditions, and she has to live in an ashram, renouncing her past life. Even before its release, the film faced many controversies, with activists destroying the film sets and even organizing suicide protests.
Dharam Sankat Mein (2015)
This is a hilarious movie about Dharam Pal (Paresh Rawal), a Hindu man being heavily prejudiced against the Muslims, and then he finds out how his biological parents were Muslim too. He then follows the superstitious practices of both religions, and realizes that they are both silly. The film goes on to show that the person’s religion does not matter as long as she/he is acting rightly and wisely.