Whether filmmakers have rights and liberties to distort history in films or to over dramatize the subject covered in their films :

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”, “Asoka”, “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 Americanization 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 character portrayed or show him/her in poor light.

Thus the films referred to herein above were unhesitantly released despite challenges, protest and/or court litigations fi led by the various outfits/persons. Besides the Film “Padmavaat” the karni sena had earlier even tried to seek a ban on the film “Jodhaa Akbar” by claiming that Akbar never had a wife named Jodhabai, however they were unsuccessful in their attempts.

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 commercial success of their film.

Also never announce the release date of your film prior to receiving the Censor Certificate.

(The author is an Advocate by profession and has been advising and representing various film personalities since almost two decades)

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