No trailer, no promotion: Why YRF and Netflix are releasing Junaid Khan’s ‘Maharaj’ so quietly

Aamir Khan's son, Junaid Khan, is making his Bollywood debut quietly. Yash Raj Films is launching him in a period drama, Maharaj, scheduled for release on Netflix this Friday. However, the makers have strangely not released any teasers or trailers, despite the premiere being just two days away. Furthermore, there have been no promotional interviews, no hoardings in the city, or any significant efforts to spark interest in its release. This is very unusual for the launch of a Bollywood star kid.

So, what’s happening with Maharaj that it’s being released so subtly? Industry sources suggest that the controversy surrounding the film's portrayal of a Hindu religious leader is the reason. The Vishwa Hindu Parishad's youth wing, represented by the Bajrang Dal, has raised objections on the grounds that it would paint the religious leader in a negative light and hurt feelings. The makers have not responded to their letter requesting an early screening, but they are being cautious and avoiding actions that might harm the film.

“YRF and Netflix India don't want to add fuel to the controversy, so they have collectively decided on minimal promotion to avoid the negative publicity. The studio is using the same tactic it applied during Pathaan, when some religious groups threatened a boycott over using saffron costumes in a song. This no-promotion strategy might not generate the desired public traction, but it helps ensure the film’s release. The current priority is to release the film, as the makers believe its strong content will speak for itself once it’s out,” an industry source explained.

For those unaware, Maharaj is based on an 1862 libel case in which journalist and reformer Karsandas Mulji was sued by religious leader Jadunathji Brijratanji Maharaj for writing a libelous article that questioned the principles of the Vallabhacharya Sampradaya, a Hindu sect of which Maharaj was a member. The article exposed how the sect's structure was built on abusing women sexually, even to the point where male followers were encouraged to offer their wives for sex with the religious leaders as a sign of their devotion. Junaid Khan plays the fearless journalist, while Jaideep Ahlawat portrays the religious leader. Bunty Aur Babli 2 actress Sharvari and Jayeshbhai Jordaar heroine Shalini Panday play the female leads. Hichki fame Siddharth P Malhotra has directed from the script written by Vipul Mehta and Sneha Desai.