Though filmmakers find Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s move of going to politicians with Padmavati to be a way of folding, they agree that sometimes the pressure to have a film released comes above all else.
Ever since the Karni Sena first vandalised the sets, Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Padmavati has faced the brunt of political and religious opposition and violent outbursts. Not only his life, but the lives of his stars have been threatened, while the film’s fate itself hangs on by a thread, with several states refusing to show it within their boundaries.
Faced with ever-mounting odds, SLB has decided to host a special screening of the film for BJP leader Amit Shah, information and broadcasting minister Smriti Irani, and sports minister Rajyavardhan Rathore. The director had earlier also showed his film to select media personnel, to get them to use their clout in his favour, but to no avail.
Negotiating with extra-judicial forces is obviously a move made in desperation, but this is not the first time that a Bollywood filmmaker has had to do so in order to see his film head to the silver screen. Karan Johar, too negotiated with Raj Thackeray and the MNS during the release of his film Ae Dil Hai Mushkil which had Pakistani star Fawad Khan, while Madhur Bhandarkar refused any and all compromise when his film Indu Sarkar was under fire.
Sanjay Leela Bhansali
The stakes are higher for Bhansali says filmmaker Karan Anshuman. “The situation that Bhansali finds himself in is a really difficult one. As a filmmaker, I suppose he is only thinking about how to get his film out, much like any filmmaker would. One can’t really fault him for trying to do anything in his power,” he sighs.
Director Bejoy Nambiar agrees completely with Karan, adding that there was little option left for the filmmaker. “I would have done the same thing if it were my film that was under threat,” he confesses. “It’s really unfortunate all that has happened with his film — a real travesty in terms of simple artistic freedom. And things have escalated so much that there’s little option he has left now. Politicians have some clout in such matters, so it only seems natural that SLB is leaving no stone unturned to get his film out. I wish him all the luck.”
The implications of going to a political body may not be all be positive, however, in an atmosphere that is already charged with political and religious agendas.
Vivek Agnihotri, whose Buddha in a Traffic Jam, also faced vehement opposition from political and student bodies, warns that politicians will have their own agendas.
“Taking the film to politicians, no matter how powerful they are, may just make it look like the makers are getting into politics. Having it ratified by historians may have made more sense, since politicians will only be driven by their own individual agendas,” he muses.
Karan also believes that this may become a negative precedent for other filmmakers. “If people see one director bowing down to external pressure, then they may all do so. It definitely doesn’t set a good precedent for filmmakers whose films will get into trouble in the future. I had the same reservations when Ae Dil Hai Mushkil was facing problems with the MNS. Still, one can hardly blame Bhansali; he is under tremendous pressure at this stage,” he adds.
Vivek believes that this is an interesting time for Hindi cinema, when a filmmaker exercises his democratic rights to fight for his film. He says, “SLB is a man — who finding himself cornered — is using whatever democratic means available to him to push for his film. It will be interesting to see what the outcome of this is.”