Controversy erupted in India on Dec. 12 when the song “Besharam Rang” – literally shameless color – was released. A segment of the song features Padukone in orange colored swimwear and Khan in a green shirt. Some saw the color orange as saffron – the color associated with India’s ruling Hindu nationalist party, the BJP. Green is the color traditionally associated with Islam. India has had a long history of communal clashes between the two religions.
On Dec. 14, Narottam Mishra, the home minister of the BJP-ruled central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh, told the media that the costumes in the song were “objectionable” and that it had been shot with “a dirty mindset” and warned that the film could be banned in the state. There were protests against the song in other parts of the state and likenesses of Khan and Padukone were burnt by Hindu organizations in other parts of the country.
Another song from the film, “Jhoome Jo Pathaan,” was released on Dec. 22 and did not generate any controversy.
Yash Raj Films submitted “Pathaan,” which is due a Jan. 25, 2023 release, to the CBFC for certification. On Thursday, CBFC chair Prasoon Joshi issued a statement.
” ‘Pathaan’ went through the due and thorough examining process as per the CBFC guidelines. The committee has guided the makers to implement the advised changes in the film including the songs and submit the revised version prior to theatrical release,” Joshi said.
“CBFC is always committed to find the right balance between creative expression and sensibility of the audience and believe that we can always find solution through meaningful dialogue between all stakeholders,” Joshi added. “Whilst the process is getting duly followed and implemented, I must reiterate that our culture and faith is glorious, intricate, and nuanced. And we have to be careful that it does not get defined by trivia which takes the focus away from the real and the true. And like I have said earlier as well, that the trust between creators and audience is most important to protect and the creators should keep working towards it.”
In response, Mishra commended the CBFC’s decision and also said that the filmmakers and actors have to keep in mind that “reel life has an effect on real life.”
Variety has reached out to Yash Raj Films for comment.
Khan is known as one of the great romantic stars of Bollywood. However, some of his last few films have underperformed at the box office and his most recent release as a solo hero was “Zero” in 2018. He has since had cameos in “Laal Singh Chaddha” and “Brahmastra Part One: Shiva.”
Directed by Siddharth Anand, “Pathaan” is part of producer Aditya Chopra’s spy universe, which also includes the “Tiger” franchise, starring Salman Khan and Katrina Kaif, and “War,” starring Hrithik Roshan and Tiger Shroff.
Meanwhile, “Besharam Rang” has generated more than 144 million views on YouTube.