When producer Kumar Mangat began the shooting of Aakrosh last year in August, he couldn’t have imagined that the film would eventually make it to the big screen at a time when its theme—honour killings—has been hitting the headlines regularly. Reportedly based on an article published in the Times of India in 1995, Aakrosh is about three Delhi University students who go missing on their trip to Jhanjhar in Bihar and how the incident brings caste tensions to the fore. Ajay Devgan and Akshaye Khanna play the CBI officers investigating the case.
The film’s promos, on air in theatres, TV and the net have caught the khaps’ attention. As have the promos for the TV serial Rishton Se Badi Pratha, again on honour killings, soon to be aired on Colors. Khap leaders reportedly met Haryana chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda last week and registered their protest with him. They are soon to hold a mahapanchayat where the movie and the serial are likely to top the agenda.
An honour killing in Karnal, Haryana
The khap panchayats are assuming the film and serial are targeting them and linking them to honour killings. “We have conveyed verbally that any serial or movie that portrays the khaps negatively should not be screened,” says Shyam Thakran of Jharsa Khap. “We are planning to submit a memorandum to the CM after the mahapanchayat.” Meanwhile, honour killings seem set to become the new flavour of the season in the world of popular entertainment. In the pipeline are a film called Khap and serials Mitwa Phool Kamal Ke and Main Bulbul Tu Sayyad.
Khap leaders claim the media has been busy portraying them in a negative light; the serial and film follow suit.
Mangat claims not to have been at the receiving end of any khap acrimony so far. Colors too hasn’t received any official complaint yet. “We will react once they approach us,” says channel spokesperson Sonia Huria. Mangat thinks that while his film might make certain people uncomfortable, “our intention is not to hurt anyone’s sentiments”.
Khap leaders claim that the media has been busy painting a negative picture of their institution and the serial and the film seem to be following suit. According to O.P. Dhankar, president of the khap committee, people are ignorant about the concept of khaps. “It is a body that ensures the welfare of the society. Same-gotra marriages are incestuous, like a marriage between brother and sister. Khaps are not against the community. In fact, we are the protectors of the community,” he says.
Meanwhile, the Centre For Social Research (CFSR), which organised a seminar on the khap phenomenon in July, believes movies and serials based on such social subjects are important in making people aware. “If khaps are for social reforms and have nothing to fear, then they should just sit quietly instead of planning a major action against the serial,” says Ranjana Kumar, president, cfsr.
For Mangat himself, the film raises a simple human issue. “How can parents kill their own kids when even stray dogs protect their pups?” he says. “It’s all about offering a simple point of view—to value human life, to live and let live.”