Netflix Film Starring Aamir Khan’s Son Halted Amidst Controversy: Revisiting the Historic 1862 Maharaj Libel Case

Netflix Film Starring Aamir Khan's Son Halted Amidst Controversy: Revisiting the Historic 1862 Maharaj Libel Case

Netflix Film Starring Aamir Khan's Son Halted Amidst Controversy: Revisiting the Historic 1862 Maharaj Libel Case

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Landmark Legal Battle Explored in New Film Faces Release Hurdle

June 15, 2024

The release of “Maharaj,” a film starring Junaid Khan, son of Aamir Khan, has been halted by the Gujarat High Court. This decision follows a plea from followers of the Pustimargi sect, who argue the film could disrupt public order and incite violence. The controversy surrounding the film brings to light the historic 1862 Maharaj Libel Case and the significant contributions of Karsandas Mulji to social reform.

Karsandas Mulji’s bold accusations against Jadunathji Maharaj, portrayed by Jaideep Ahlawat in the film, led to a sensational trial that captivated the nation. Mulji alleged that Maharaj exploited female devotees under the guise of religious practices. 

The Maharaj Libel Case is notable for highlighting Mulji’s dedication to truth and justice, and his role in promoting transparency and accountability in society. Mulji’s bravery and commitment to exposing exploitation are central to understanding the importance of this case.

The film “Maharaj” centers on the 1862 legal battle between Mulji and the Vallabhacharya sect. Mulji, a fearless journalist and social reformer, published his accusations in his Gujarati weekly newspaper “Satya Prakash.” In retaliation, Jadunathji Maharaj filed a libel suit against Mulji and the newspaper’s publisher, Nanabhai Rustomji Ranina. 

The trial, held in the Supreme Court of Bombay, attracted widespread public and media attention. Various testimonies from missionaries and doctors supported Mulji’s allegations, leading to a landmark verdict on April 22, 1862, that recognized Mulji’s role in exposing wrongdoing and promoting moral integrity in society.

Originally slated for release on Netflix on June 14, the film has faced opposition from followers of the Vaishnavite Pushtimargi sect. These followers, devotees of Lord Krishna, argue that the film misrepresents their religious practices and disrespects their beliefs. This prompted a petition to the Gujarat High Court, which ordered a temporary stay on the film’s release. The decision came in response to concerns that the film’s depiction of historical events could incite religious tensions and misinform the public about their beliefs. 

Legal experts have noted the complexities involved in adjudicating matters related to artistic freedom and religious sentiments. “The court must carefully consider the historical context and the filmmakers’ intent while also ensuring that the portrayal does not lead to unrest or communal disharmony,” said lawyer and constitutional expert, Rajeev Dhavan.

The Maharaj Libel Case remains a pivotal moment in Indian legal and social history, underscoring the importance of press freedom and the role of journalism in social reform. As Karsandas Mulji’s investigative journalism exposed the alleged exploitation of female devotees, the ensuing court battle highlighted the crucial role of the press in challenging entrenched power structures and promoting social justice. The ongoing controversy surrounding “Maharaj” highlights the delicate balance between creative expression and societal harmony. As the judiciary deliberates on the film’s fate, the legacy of Karsandas Mulji’s courage in challenging corrupt practices continues to resonate, reminding us of the enduring power of truth and justice.