‘Laal Singh Chaddha’, Bollywood’s high-profile remake of Oscar-winning ‘Forrest Gump’ (1994), is gearing up for a wide release on August 11. By all parameters of logic, the Rs 180 cr budgeted film that re-unites ‘3 Idiots’ lead pair Aamir Khan and Kareena Kapoor Khan should be a runaway hit, no questions asked. Right?
Despite being (arguably) the most bankable star in India, Aamir is coming off his biggest dud yet (‘Thugs of Hindostan’ with a Rs 334 cr collection against a Rs 300 cr budget).
To make matters more complicated, a section of fans has set its crosshairs firmly on the ‘Dangal’ star, with the aim of making his latest offering a complete and utter flop.
Twitter's Rage at Aamir and Kareena:
Indian Twitterati has attained the uncanny ability to link the tragic death of star Sushant Singh Rajput to every upcoming Bollywood release. Over two years since the 34-year-old’s death by suicide, murmurs of ‘nepotism’ abound, especially among a section of his fans. Therefore, every time a high-profile Bollywood film is lined up for release, the hashtags ‘Justice for SSR’ and ‘Boycott Bollywood’ begin to trend on the micro-blogging platform.
The latest campaign, against ‘Laal Singh Chaddha’, has been especially vitriolic and intense.
‘Be ready brother to #BoycottBollywood and #BoycottLalSinghChaddha. Use your money to feed poor brother and sister. Don't waste your money to see lal singh chaddha’, reads a comment on Twitter carrying the afore-mentioned hashtag.
On Twitter, these trolls, memes, and direct vitriol go on and on and on.
Recently, lead actress Kareena Kapoor Khan was dragged into the mud for questioning the nepotism narrative. A section of netizens seethed in anger after Kapoor Khan, against the backdrop of boycott calls, reportedly said: ‘..don’t watch our movie, we don’t force anyone.’
There is also the question of ideology, as Aamir is not seen as being ‘nationalistic’ enough.
A section of the public fears that the film might show ‘distortion of historical facts’ (In the original film, main character Gump without intention ends up in key historical events and inadvertently ends up influencing the whole world with his unassuming actions).
‘A single historical event can be shown through several points of view. Even though Forrest Gump is seen as one of the top 25 American conservative films of all time, it is to be seen what kind of ideological lens its Bollywood remake adopts,’ says conservative Youtube critic Pratik Bhorade.
Meanwhile, Aamir has also been targetted over a remark he made to media a few years ago.
“Our country is very tolerant, but there are people who spread ill-will,” Aamir said during an interview. His ex-wife Kiran Rao, who was also present during the interview, added that she considered leaving the country for the safety of their children.
Although the public outcry over the statement has subsided in the ensuing years, the anti ‘Laal Singh Chaddha’ squad says Aamir should not release the film in a country where he feels ‘unsafe.’
Reacting to the controversy, Aamir has said that he “really loves India.”
“It is rather unfortunate if some people feel that way. I want to assure everyone that it’s not the case so please don’t boycott my films, please watch my films,” he said.
Although Bollywood has been largely silent on the issue, few stars, such as model-turned-actor Milind Soman and filmmaker Rahul Dholakia, have spoken out in support of Aamir’s film.
Meanwhile, Cloud of Uncertainty Hangs over Business of Bollywood:
Amid the calls for boycott, Bollywood has been hit-and-miss since the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting lockdowns. Barring a few exceptions (‘Bhool Bhulaiyya 2’, ‘Sooryavanshi’, ‘Gangubai Kathiawadi’), the tinsel town has been unable to replicate its success of old.
While streaming services took over during the pandemic, they have refused to relinquish the stranglehold since. With a wide array of choices in both films and episodic serials, these platforms are gaining popularity with the availability of cheap high-speed 4G internet across India. The advent of 5G in the coming months looks to add further to the woes of the Mumbai film industry.
The South Indian film industries have been quick to fill the void. Films like ‘RRR’, ‘Pushpa’, and ‘KGF: Chapter 2’ have been absolute bangers, redefining the very meaning of the word ‘blockbuster.’ Thanks to dubbing and sub-titling, these previously niche entertainers are finding a pan-india (and in some cases, global) appeal.
During a recent episode of ‘Koffee with Karan’, Aamir admitted to being stressed about the box-office results. “Of course I am stressed, kaise sawaal pooch raha hai yaar (What kind of questions are you asking?),” the ‘Dil Chahta Hai’ actor said, responding to a question by host Johar.
The Lasting Legacy of Forrest Gump:
This entertaining film (that turned tear-jerker at times )by Robert Zemeckis re-defined the rules of modern Hollywood entertainment. Feted at the Oscars with the coveted ‘Best Picture’ trophy, ‘Forrest Gump’ is one of those rare films that refuses to go away and retains a great significance on the culture.
Be it the iconic background score by Alan Silvestri, or one of those quotable quotes (‘Life is a box of chocolates’, anyone?), ‘Gump’ perfectly encapsulated the figurative American pie that everyone wanted a part of in the early days of ‘globalization.’
A scroll through social media comments reveals that the public, at the very least, is concerned at the prospect of Aamir and co being able to emulate the magic of ‘Gump.’
‘Did Forest Gump really need a Bollywood remake? I feel like it would have been better if the same masterpiece was dubbed in Hindi instead’, reads a top comment posted to the ‘Laal Singh Chaddha’ trailer on YouTube.
The standards have been set very high. All eyes are on Aamir and co. The question is, can they deliver?
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