On Wednesday there was uncertainty and fear surrounding the future of Padmavati. Will the producers Viacom 18 Motion Pictures actually be able to release the film in spite of the threat? The fringe group claiming to represent the Rajput community has sent out threatening letters to individual multiplex theatres across the country.
A worried manager of a leading multiplex told me, “Even if we overlook the threat and decide to release the film the mall owners would be worried about the security of the shoppers. So if the mall owner says no, we can’t release Padmaavat. And what about the patrons who come to see PadMan? They will be scared away because of the violent treats for Padamavat.”
But on Thursday the clouds of doubts were partially dispelled when the honourable Supreme Court ruled against the ban imposed on the film by 4 Indian states.
Not just Sanjay Leela Bhansali the entire film industry, petrified to speak up, breathed a sigh of relief. One of the first filmmakers to react with unbridled joy at the SC’s verdict was R Balki whose PadMan gets directly affected by the release of Padmavati on the same day.
Says Balki, “This is a victory democracy, the right to freedom of expression and for the film industry being held at ransom by fringe groups. I can’t even begin to imagine the relief that Viacom 18 and Sanjay Leela Bhansali must be feeling.”
It is good to hear a voice from the film industry finally speak up. There has been a strange quietude among Sanjay Bhansali’s colleagues. Perhaps they are too scared to speak up. A prominent actor who is a member of parliament had promised to raise the Padmavat issue in parliament. That actor is now tightlipped, afraid to talk.
“It is not fear of the fringe groups that keeps me from raising my voice in parliament. It is the fear of being proven wrong. What if tomorrow, when the film releases and it has something genuinely objectionable in it? Even earlier in Bajirao Mastani, Bhansali had portrayed the Maratha warrior as dancing to an aggressive song. What if something like that pops up in Padmavat?” asks this otherwise-fearless parliamentarian.
Wait-and-watch seems to be the policy regarding Padmaavat. In the days before the release of the volatile film on January 25, we can expect several private screenings for various influential elements including perhaps some leaders from the fringe groups.
Back at the Bhansalis’ residence, there was cautious optimism about the SC order to ban the ban, so to speak. Minutes after the SC verdict the filmmaker who hasn’t slept much in recent weeks was on the phone in a huddle over release plans. A close family member said. “It’s great to hear the Supreme Court lift the ban. But will the States pay ahead? And more importantly, will the fringe groups listen to the verdict?”
Good point, that. Just an hour after the SC’s wonderful verdict theatre owners received renewed warnings.
A theatre owner in Bihar says he is not releasing the on January 25. “Even ifNitishji doesn’t ban the film I won’t release the film on 25th. I will see how it goes with the other theatres on January 25 and release the film accordingly on January 26.”
Long live democracy.
(Subhash K Jha is a film critic and movie expert)
(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed above are the personal views of the author and do not reflect the views of ZMCL.)