One of the most worrying facts about the last few years has been the paradigm shift in mindset – fundamentalism and a rabid, unquestioning devotion to leaders has resulted in extreme factions within India that can turn at a moment’s notice. Reddit even has a thread of some films that might not have released in the current climate. We’re no longer tolerant of things that don’t align with our school of thought, and that means many of the movies released earlier would have had a much more violent reaction today.    

1. Rang De Basanti

A group of students fighting against government corruption and injustice? That might have worked in 2006, but in today’s day and age, the film would have been branded anti-national and had 100s of FIRs filed against it. After all, just look at how actual student protests are handled nowadays, such the as the anti-CAA movement. Students of colleges like Jamia and AMU have been brutalised and police excesses against them have seen the support of the public. 

Dialy O

2. Haider

In this 2014 film based on Hamlet, Shahid Kapoor’s character is a poet who returns to Kashmir at the height of the insurgency to find that his father has disappeared. As he starts digging into the case, the politics of the state break him down. The film made several references to human rights abuses, a controversial subject in any case and now a highly divisive matter considering the revoking of Article 370 and the numerous allegations of torture and brutality by state forces since. 


3. PK

This film preached for the equality of all religions, especially in an infamous scene where Amir Khan makes a scummy godman and his followers realise that everyone is just human at the end of the day. However, even a reference to godmen and implying that religion can divide results in a barrage of insults from many corners nowadays, and absolute venom from bhakts. It’s a sad situation, but the film probably wouldn’t be made today as filmmakers wouldn’t want to risk a boycott.

Film Sufi

4. A Wednesday

This 2008 thriller starred Naseeruddin Shah as a common man who resorts to an extreme method of justice after a spate of train bombings in Mumbai. The film’s underlying theme about holding the government accountable resonated with many at the time. However, criticism of the government nowadays isn’t just frowned upon, it’s literally dangerous. That means a film like this criticising a government’s inaction and lack of policy implementation would never be made today.

Times of India

5. Hazaaron Khwaishein Aisi

This 2005 political drama’s basis was in the 1970s, on the rise of the Naxal movement. Several scenes, especially the diatribes by Siddharth, who calls out the government for its inaction, as well as accusations of police brutality, would be seen as a direct attack on the ways of the powers that be today. It would have caused an uproar among those against criticising the government.


6. Maachis

This 1996 thriller directed by Gulzar is set in the backdrop of the 1984 anti-Sikh riots. When Kripal is unable to helps his friend, who has been brutalised by the police, through legal means, he joins an extremist group to make a change. The film talks about how injustice by the political system and law and order leads to the rise of terrorism and insurgency in India. This would be seen as sympathising with the enemy in today’s day and age, despite being an extremely grey subject.  


7. Hu Tu Tu

Another film by the inimitable Gulzar, this one came out in 1999. It deals with the politics of hate, and how corruption among ministers and the ruling class can ignite a passion against the government by the common man. Hu Tu Tu targeted political corruption, and its lasting effects on a politician’s family. Considering the extreme steps taken against those indulging in serious abuses of power, this film would likely have not been released today. 


8. Kai Po Che

This 2013 film starring Sushant Singh Rajput, Rajkummar Rao and Amit Sadh tracked the degenration of 3 close friends due to religious disparities, politics and the Gujarat riots. Considering these are themes that tend to cause controversy nowadays, where anything even vaguely related to religion or right-wing politics is seen as a massive attack, the film would probably not have been made.

NY Times

9. Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro

This seminal 1983 comedy starring Naseeruddin Shah was a satire on the widespread corruption present in India’s politics, bureaucracy, news sources and businesses. That’s already reason enough for it to be a little risque in today’s climate. There’s an infamous scene involving a stage dramatisation of the Mahabharata – it was hilarious, but would most definitely have offended some religious fundamentalists today. 

Times of India

10. Hey Ram

Directed by and starring Kamal Haasan, this 2000 film was controversial even at the time of its release. Largely taking place during Partition, it follows Saketh Ram, who gets involved in a plan to assassinate Gandhi because he advocates peace with Muslims. With its themes of religious extremism and a backdrop of the Babri Masjid Demolition, the film would most likely have invited the wrath of the very kind of people it talks about.


It feels like when these movies came out, India was a different land altogether – not as quick to put a hand on the trigger, and more open to different points of view.