Fans, Families and Censorship:
The Alluda Majaka Controversy
D S.V. Srinivas
For some time now popular Telugu cinema has been the source of considerable anxiety. Political parties, women's groups, the press and people within the film industry have often expressed serious concern about the progressive degeneration of the medium from the 'message-bearer' of nationalism and social reform to a dispenser of cheap and dangerous thrills. The focus of this concern, in the eighties and nineties, became the mass-film, packed—as its critics saw it— with violence and obscenity in order to attract the 'masses.' The stars of the eighties, especially Chiranjeevi, the most popular of them by the mid-eighties, were directly implicated in what was seen as the 'massifying' of the medium.1
The Alluda Majaka controversy broke out at a time when already current fears about the impact of cinema were compounded by the widespread concern caused by developments related to what may, for the sake of convenience, be called 'liberalization.'
No other film in the recent past evoked the kind of response which Alluda Majaka (E.V.V. Satyanarayana, 1995) did. Newspaper reviews condemned the film, leftist women's organizations held demonstrations outside theatres screening it, Bharatiya Janata Mahila Morcha (the women's wing of the Bharatiya Janata Party) and the Akhila Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) took out a protest rally, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) raised its objections to the film on the floor of the Legislative Assembly and was joined by members of other parties including the ruling Telugu Desam Party. Women's groups on the left and right as well as legislators, cutting across party lines, demanded that the film be banned.
Meanwhile, a major battle broke out in the Censor Board. The Examination Committee of the Board's regional office had reportedly suggested dozens of cuts (some say over 50) but the producer took the matter to the Revising Committee which overruled most of them. When the critics of the film attacked the regional Censor Board for its inability to adequately censor the film, the Examination Committee members complained to the Central Censor Board pointing out that the objectionable portions were precisely those it sought to delete. The Central Board decided to review the matter while the film was running to packed houses.2