There is good and bad news for Sanjay Leela Bhansali. The good news is that in spite of a 30-35 per cent fall in footfalls, Padmaavat has collected an impressive Rs 32 crores on the first two days of release. With the movie-going audience becoming increasingly aware of the pre-release misrepresentation of the film's content by certain vested interests, the footfalls are growing by the day - no, by the show.
Sanjay Leela Bhansali has had a tough time in the recent past. Not that he's breathing easy now. Not yet. The baffling agitation against his film rages on and with no end in sight. And Sanjay doesn't know whether he should laugh or cry as attempts to bully him intensify.
So the bad news. Now, we have an announcement that there will be a film made on Sanjay's mother. We didn't know that the Karni Sena was replete with closet-filmmaker(s). Come to think of it, we didn't know the Karni Sena until Padmaavat.
Toh aabb hum maa-bahen pe utar aaye hain. Shabaash.
Where does this end?
Not with Padmaavat, for sure.
I was speaking to a very prominent filmmaker who smugly declared he would not "touch" history "with a bargepole."
Does he really think that he is immune to the attacks now that the fringe groups have tasted blood? Throughout the Padmaavat crisis, the film industry has shown itself to be spineless and non-supportive. Can you recall one major filmmaker coming forward to openly support Bhansali in his hour of crisis? On the contrary, a very high-profile filmmaker known to pose preen and fraternize with the glamorous jet-setters, and being quite a star himself, was heard counselling R Balki to not postpone PadMan for Padmavaat's sake.
But guess what, Mr Director? It could be you next. The fringe groups have realized that they can get away with their trashy tyranny. It was Ashutosh Gowariker's Jodha Akbar which brought the Karni Sena into the limelight. Padmaavat has made them a farce, pardon me, force to reckon with.
In the coming months and years, we can expect fringe groups to question any and every filmmaker about his intention. If Aamir Khan is making Mahabharat and decides to cast himself as Arjun, he may have to explain why a Muslim should play the iconic Hindu warrior. And so on.
Now that the entertainment industry has exposed its utter vulnerability, there is no end to the arm-twisting that the industry would have to face.
As one grim voice from among the filmmakers said to me, "We dealt with underworld extortion in the 1990s and 2000. We are now dealing with another kind of terrorism which is far more dangerous since it seems to be state-sanctioned."
(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.)