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Junaid's Debut On Hold Because...

Source: PTI
June 14, 2024 16:34 IST
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The Gujarat high court has stayed the release of Maharaj, Aamir Khan's son Junaid's debut film, on Netflix after followers of Pushtimarg, a Vaishnava sect of Hinduism, claimed that it would hurt their religious sentiments.

Justice Sangeeta Vishen passed an order against the film slated for release on June 14.

The bench also issued notices to the Centre, Netflix and Yash Raj Films, which has produced the film, and posted the matter for further hearing on June 18.


Eight members of the Pushtimarg sect filed a petition against the release after they came across articles about the film, apparently based on the Maharaj libel case of 1862.

The petitioners have claimed that their religious sentiments would be 'seriously hurt' if the movie is permitted to be released, and it is likely to affect public order and incite violence against followers of the sect.

Appearing for the petitioners, senior advocate Mihir Joshi submitted that the film was based on the libel case of 1862, which was heard and decided by British judges.

He further said that a reference was made to the excerpts from the court's judgment containing scandalous and defamatory language, which affects the followers of the sect.

The petitioners pointed out that the British-era court 'castigates the Hindu religion and makes seriously blasphemous comments against Lord Krishna as well as the devotional songs and hymns'.

They also argued that the movie sought to be released in a secretive manner without a trailer or promotional events to avoid any access to the storyline.

Earlier, the petitioners had approached the ministry of information and broadcasting, requesting to take immediate measures to block the film's release. But there was no response.

The petitioners claimed that the release of the movie would be in breach of the code of ethics under the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, and the self-regulation code of Over the Top Technology (OTT).

A representation was also made in April to Yash Raj Films and Netflix by some other trust for a pre-release private screening but there was no response.

Senior advocate Joshi said the refusal strengthened the petitioners' apprehension, and considering the secrecy maintained by the respondent filmmakers, an adverse inference can be drawn.

Considering the reach of OTT platforms and immediate distribution worldwide, it would be impossible to rectify the damage caused by the release, the petitioners stated.

The 1862 libel case was centred on a clash between a Vaishnavite religious leader and social reformer, Karsandas Mulji, who, in an article in a Gujarati weekly, had alleged that the godman had sexual liaisons with his female devotees.

Meanwhile, hashtags like 'Boycott Netflix' and 'Ban Maharaj Film' have started trending on X.

VHP leader Sadhvi Prachi was one of the many X users who called for a ban.

'Won't tolerate the disrespect of Sanatan Dharma. Ban Maharaj Film. #BoycottNetflix,' Prachi posted on X.

Directed by Siddharth P Malhotra and produced by Aditya Chopra under YRF Entertainment, the movie also stars Jaideep Ahlawat. Unlike a mainstream film launching a star son, there were no trailers or teasers, barring a poster featuring Jaideep and Junaid.

While Jaideep's character sports a tilak on his forehead, Junaid's journalist character is dressed in a waistcoat.

Maharaj also stars Shalini Pandey with Sharvari in a special appearance.

According to a press release issued by Netflix last month, Maharaj is set in pre-independent India and is based on the Maharaj libel case of 1862, which was ignited by 'allegations of misconduct by a prominent figure'.

It follows Karsandas Mulji, a journalist and social reformer, who was a pioneering advocate for women's rights and social reform.

'The case garnered widespread attention and scrutiny, setting the stage for what many consider to be one of the most significant legal battles of all time,' Netflix said.

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