Junaid Khan on Maharaj controversy, film being stalled ahead of release: We were all a bit on edge

Junaid Khan’s debut film Maharaj garnered eyeballs for the controversy it was mired in ahead of its release. While the film received positive response when it finally dropped on streaming a week later than its scheduled release, the actor asserts that it was never the intention of the makers to hurt anyone’s sentiments.

A still of Junaid Khan from Maharaj
A still of Junaid Khan from Maharaj

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“I certainly did not feel that way when I had heard the script and through my conversations with Sidharth (Malhotra; director) sir and (producer) Aditya Chopra sir,” says the debutant, adding, “The film celebrates a community that stood up for what was right over a hundred and seventy years ago when these sort of things (gender inequality, exploitation of women, religious superstitions) were rampant everywhere. I think as more and more people are watching the film, they are seeing it for what was intended.”

Maharaj’s release was initially halted by the Gujarat High Court after a petition from members of the Vaishnavite Pustimargi sect raised concerns about the film’s depiction of their religious beliefs. The High Court eventually lifted the stay, allowing the film to be released on Netflix on June 21, asserting that the film did not target the sect as alleged.

A still from the film Maharaj
A still from the film Maharaj

Recalling the tense moments when the film’s release was uncertain, the 31-year-old, son of actor Aamir Khan, says, “We were all a bit on edge when the film was stalled. As a team, we drew hope from the positive reactions at the media and industry screenings held the day before the intended release. I’m thankful to the judiciary for seeing the film for what it is and allowing its release.”

Also Read: Junaid Khan on receiving ‘satisfying’ response for his debut film Maharaj: All’s well that ends well

A still from Maharaj
A still from Maharaj

Junaid hopes that the people, who became guarded and thought the film would hurt their religious sentiments even before watching it, would reconsider their decision and give the film a chance. “The positive word of mouth and reviews are doing that already [sending a message]. I hope that everyone sees the film and the intention behind the film for what it is,” he remarks.

Also Read: Junaid Khan reveals he auditioned for Aamir Khan’s role in Laal Singh Chaddha: ‘Papa was very keen that I do the film’

Reflecting on his father’s reaction and if he gave him any advice, Junaid shares that Aamir, often referred to as Mr. Perfectionist, had seen Maharaj months before its release. “He really liked it,” reveals the actor, and continues, “Papa doesn’t really give advice that is not asked for. He lets us do our own thing. If we have any specific things to ask him about, he is extremely helpful and I did get a lot of incredible insights on certain things but they are highly specific to a particular thing I asked him about.”

Looking ahead, Junaid is excited about exploring new spaces with his upcoming releases. “I am doing a project with Aamir Khan Productions and the other is with Phantom Films. I am also doing a play called Strictly Unconventional in September at the NCPA Experimental Theatre,” he wraps up.

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