CE Year in Review: Top 8 Bollywood controversies from 2021
A roundup of the biggest flare-ups in Bollywood this year
It wasn’t the most combative of Bollywood years. Nobody crossed swords publicly (or leveraged a tragic suicide to sling mud at each other). Aryan Khan, the centre of attention for a few weeks, eventually went back home to his parents. Kangana Ranaut duteously kept up the headlines, but otherwise, it was a dull year. Nevertheless, we got the usual suspects, from a backlash-stirring ad to high-profile summons and arrests.
Here’s a roundup of the top controversies from Bollywood 2021…
Multiple FIRs were filed against the web series for allegedly hurting religious sentiments. The focus was a scene where actor Mohammad Zeeshan Ayyub portrayed Lord Shiva in a college play. In a first, Amazon Prime Video deleted the scene along with other contentious portions of Ali Abbas Zafar’s show. It set a precedent of sorts: streaming platforms caving to external pressure at the minor cost of artistic expression.
Kartik Aaryan Ouster from Dostana 2
A sequel to Dostana (2008) was in production when lead actor Kartik Aaryan exited the project. It was alleged that Dharma Productions had fired Kartik for unprofessional conduct and for delaying the shoot. Other reports, however, claimed that Kartik was dissatisfied with the film's second half and had asked for rewrites. A statement was released by Dharma, saying they have decided to 'maintain a dignified silence' and will be recasting Dostana 2. Kartik did not comment on the ouster, though he was publicly supported by filmmaker Anubhav Sinha and actor Kangana Ranaut.
Kangana Ranaut Twitter Ban
On May 4, Twitter permanently suspended the account of Kangana Ranaut for violating their hateful conduct and abusive behaviour policies. The suspension came after Kangana tweeted her reaction to the assembly poll results in West Bengal, which was seen as an incitement to violence. The actor responded strongly, alleging racism on Twitter’s part and saying she has other platforms to express her views (she has since been active on Instagram).
Aamir Khan-Kiran Rao divorce
After 15 years of marriage, Aamir Khan and Kiran Rao parted ways in July. In a joint statement, the ex-couple said they are getting divorced but will co-parent their son Azad. They will also continue to collaborate on their film and philanthropic ventures. Later, Aamir appeared in a video with Kiran, asking fans to not feel disappointed and wish them well. “We will always be family,” the ex-couple said in the video. Their amiability touched politician Sanjay Raut, who said that Shiv Sena-BJP relations in Maharashtra are similar to Aamir and Kiran’s.
Raj Kundra Arrest
Shilpa Shetty made her Bollywood comeback with Hungama 2. However, the actor was hit by a personal crisis ahead of the film’s release. Her husband, businessman Raj Kundra, was arrested for allegedly making porn content and publishing them on mobile apps. He was granted bail later on, but the case continued. “This whole episode has been nothing but a witch hunt,” Raj recently said, a sentiment echoed in Shilpa’s social media posts after his arrest.
Alia Bhatt Manyavar Backlash
A clothing ad featuring Alia Bhatt stirred online backlash in September. In the ad, Alia, dressed as an Indian bride, questions archaic notions attached to the ritual of Kanya-daan. The ad was attacked on social media, with #BoycottManyavar trending on Twitter. Many claimed it was an insult to the Hindu faith and values. Others, however, defended its message of equality in Indian weddings.
Sonu Sood IT-raid
Sonu Sood was a national hero for his humanitarian efforts throughout the Covid-19 pandemic. However, in September this year, the actor and his charity foundation were accused of tax evasion and other irregularities. IT-Dept sleuths searched six premises, including Sonu's home, over multiple days. Once the searches were over, Sonu spoke to the media and denied the allegations. He also issued a social media clarification, saying every rupee in his foundation is 'awaiting its turn to save a precious life and reach the needy.'
Aryan Khan Arrest
On October 3, the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) raided a cruise ship off the coast of Mumbai and arrested seven, including Bollywood star Shah Rukh Khan’s son Aryan Khan. Aryan, 23, was kept in judicial custody through the initial hearings, with his father visiting him at Mumbai’s Arthur Road Jail. He was eventually released after winning bail in the Bombay High Court.
Many from the industry—Hrithik Roshan, Hansal Mehta, Pooja Bhatt—supported SRK’s family on social media, while others remained silent. Similar divisions were felt on political lines, culminating in a public row between Maharashtra cabinet minister Nawab Malik and NCB Zonal Director Sameer Wankhede.