‘Boycott Netflix’ trends on X ahead of Junaid Khan's debut film 'Maharaj' release, Gujarat HC halts temporary stay on film's release

The social media platform X has been buzzing with the hashtag ‘Boycott Netflix’ ahead of the release of Aamir Khan’s son Junaid Khan’s debut film, "Maharaj." The film, which also stars Jaideep Ahlawat, is set to premiere on Netflix tomorrow, June 14. The Gujarat High Court has intervened, granting a temporary stay on the film's release following a petition from a group of Hindus who claim the movie will offend religious sentiments.

On June 13, the Gujarat High Court issued an ex parte temporary stay on the release of 'Maharaj' after petitioners expressed concerns that the film portrays a nineteenth-century Hindu religious leader from Gujarat in a negative light. The controversy has been brewing for nearly ten days, with various Hindu organizations, including the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and Bajrang Dal, advocating for a boycott of the film.

Critics have accused Netflix of promoting content that is ‘anti-Hindu,’ sparking calls for a boycott of the streaming giant. Among the vocal critics is VHP leader Sadhvi Prachi, who took to X to express her outrage. “Won’t tolerate the disrespect of Sanatan Dharma. Ban Maharaj Film. #BoycottNetflix,” Prachi tweeted.

Several other users echoed similar sentiments. One user questioned Netflix’s intentions, writing, “Why was religion introduced into a film made on food a few months ago?? And now the insult to Hindu saints, how long will this continue?” Another user pointed out the portrayal of characters in the film’s poster, stating, “The poster for Maharaj shows a tilak-sporting, tuft-bearing man on one side, while there is a sharply dressed young man (Aamir Khan’s son Junaid). As always, Anti-Hindu web-series and movies have been shown on Netflix in the past as well.”

The controversy centers on the film’s depiction of historical events. Set in pre-independent India, "Maharaj" is based on the Maharaj Libel Case of 1862, which involved allegations of misconduct against a prominent figure. Junaid Khan plays the role of Karsandas Mulji, a journalist and social reformer who was a pioneering advocate for women's rights and social reform. Mulji, a student at Elphinstone College in Mumbai and a protege of the scholar-leader Dadabhai Naoroji, wrote on widow remarriage and stood up for the oppressed, sowing the seeds of reform in society.

Despite the heated online debate, no teaser or trailer for "Maharaj" has been released yet. The film, directed by Siddharth P Malhotra and produced by Aditya Chopra under YRF Entertainment, will stream directly on Netflix starting tomorrow.

As the release date approaches, the controversy highlights the ongoing tensions between content creators and sections of the audience, underscoring the challenges faced by filmmakers in navigating cultural sensitivities. Whether "Maharaj" will manage to overcome the boycott calls and win over viewer’s remains to be seen.