Monday, Mar 19, 2018 | Last Update : 10:25 AM IST
The opposition to SLB’s Padmavati comes as one in a series of bullying tactics from outside entities.
Sanjay Leela Bhansali is currently going full throttle with the publicity and upcoming release of Padmavati. From the word go, the movie had been mired in controversy, especially when it came to the depiction of Alauddin Khilji coveting the legendary queen, known for her beauty.
The Rajput Karni Sena took exception to the shoot in January, assaulting Bhansali, and setting fire to the sets of the movie in Jaipur. Now, with the poster reveal of the movie, the fringe outfit is active again, resorting to burning posters and running a riot. This time, though, a sting operation by a news portal also showed how the outfit had been running an extortion racket, offering to create a ruckus on the sets of historical movies, for hefty amounts, running into crores of rupees.
Despite the arm-twisting tactics, Bhansali has time and again refused to screen his movies for interest groups, something that filmmaker Vivek Agnihotri lauds. “It should be at the discretion of the filmmaker as to whether he wants to screen a film for someone or not, and not be the result of pressure from outside groups,” he muses, and adds that a lot of the onus is on the government, which fails to protect filmmakers in this scenario. “But then a lot of it is also on the filmmakers themselves. If you are making a film that is on a controversial subject, then you have to be prepared for the backlash that you are going to face.”
But it’s not just Padmavati that has had to go through scrutiny. Arjun Rampal’s Daddy, which shows him portray the role of gangster Arun Gawli, reportedly needed a green signal from the Gawli family itself. Arjun himself admitted that Gawli gave him some pointers about character behaviours in the movie. “There were minor tweaks and we used them in the movie. I think his suggestions actually helped the film,” he said.
Word was that when Haseena Parkar, the biopic of Dawood’s sister with Shraddha Kapoor essaying the lead role was being shot, the Parkar family had visited the sets of the movie too.
Film historian S.M.M. Ausaja believes Bollywood is rife with these examples, where the filmmaker has had to seek permissions from extra judicial forces. “This is nothing new. Earlier, during Shiv Sena’s regime in Mumbai, Sarkar had reportedly been screened for Bal and Uddhav Thackeray. Mani Ratnam’s movie Bombay, based on the city itself was also supposedly shown to Thackeray, and he yielded to many cuts suggested by him.”
He adds with a sigh, “In more recent times, Shah Rukh Khan had to meet with MNS chief Raj Thackeray to ensure the smooth release of Raees. The fact that these actors need to take these measures shows how little support they have from the police and government.”
Vivek cites his own example, “I personally would never have gone and said sorry to anyone like Karan Johar did to the MNS for instance, to ensure the smooth release of Ae Dil Hai Mushkil. When I made Buddha in a Traffic Jam, it went against the usual storyline of romanticising Naxalites. Since I showed them as criminals, terrorists picking up arms, my film was delayed for five years, I was beaten up, and my car was broken. But I stood by my film. That is what the film fraternity needs to be prepared to do. Otherwise, we are opening ourselves up for more such treatment.”
However, Hansal Mehta, who has Aligarh, based on the life of Ramchandra Siras, to his credit, has a rather pragmatic take on the issue. He firmly says, “When you are doing a story on any person or entity that is based on a historical character, you are concising years of history into just a couple of hours. So, an element of dramatisation is bound to come into that depiction. The families or people who have close ties to the person depicted in the film may not understand these nuances. So, in such a situation, it really is the discretion of the director whether he wants to get their approval or not.”