‘Bollywood’ and ‘controversy’, over the course of decades, these two words have become synonymous with each other. India has no scarcity of films that either courted major controversy or faced a complete ban. Ironically, it’s these movies that have been the most critically acclaimed for bringing about the themes of inequality & discrimination, communal inconsistencies & other socio-political themes. 

Today, we have compiled a list of some of the most highly regarded Indian films that never saw the light of the day and took the Indian Bollywood industry a few steps backward:

  • Fire, Directed by Deepa Mehta

The first installment of the Elements trilogy(a trilogy with each film more controversial than the previous one), Fire is largely considered to be the first mainstream, and to this day, the finest film that explored the theme of homosexuality in the Indian film industry. 

A path-breaking film, Fire tells the story of two abandoned wives who find love, safety, and comfort in each other.

In a decade that had no Twitter or Instagram, the film went viral and became the target of vandals that wreaked havoc in the theaters, burning posters on streets, and even led to a parliament adjournment.

  • Water, Directed by Deepa Mehta

Another eye-opening film about Indian society, Water was the third and final film in Deepa Mehta’s Elements trilogy. 

After the debacle of democracy that Mehta’s Fire witnessed, her being able to produce and write another film under dire circumstances was a testament to Mehta’s love for the craft and telling meaningful stories.

The film examined the marginalization of widows in Indian society, and tackled themes like exclusion and misogyny. The pain of exclusion that Hindu widows had to endure in past represented by beautiful cinematography and performances gives its audiences both a lesson about kindness and a perspective around marginalization. 

  • Aandhi, Directed by Gulzar

Widely known for his profound lyrics on all kinds of subjects, Gulzar is as wonderful a director as he is a lyricist.

Aandhi, made by lyricist and director Gulzar is a political drama that centers around a woman politician whose personality and demeanor was considered uncanny to that of the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.

A film that revolves around subjects like, love, priorities, compromises and human connections, it was subject to a lot of controversies as the filmmakers faced allegations that the film was based on the Prime Minister’s life. 

Although Gulzar said that he had only borrowed the Prime Minsiter’s look and nothing about the film was true to reality, his film was completely banned during the reign of Indira Gandhi.

You can watch Aandhi on YouTube.

  • The Pink Mirror, Sridhar Rangayan

Directed by filmmaker and gay activist Sridhar Rangayan, The Pink Mirror is a film that is critically acclaimed for its thoughtful and sensitive portrayal of the Indian homosexual closet. The film revolves around the life of two transwomen.

The film had portrayed transsexual persons as protagonists and their journey exploring the massive issues that still plague the LGBTQ community: from social stigma to the ever-looming threat of HIV.

Even though the movie had no nudity or offensive scenes, the censor board deemed it to be “too vulgar for Indian audience” and never let the movie see the light of the day. 

You can catch The Pink Mirror on Netflix. 

In Conclusion,

For a country that prides itself to be the land of tolerance and harmony, its citizens have time and time again shown that tolerance and harmony can only be possible in a utopic India. One where the artistic language of cinema will not be curbed by right-winged “guardians of Indian culture”, and where meaningful stories will be created, told, and shared.