Filmmaker Madhur Bhandarkar’s decision to shelve his film rather than work with a pregnant actor has caused ripples in Bollywood. On Tuesday, Bhandarkar and production house UTV announced that they have decided to shelve their film, Heroine, out of concern for the lead actor Aishwarya Rai Bachchan’s “good health and well being in face of incredibly demanding shooting schedules.” Aishwarya had already shot for ten days for the film before her pregnancy was announced to the world.
Sources reveal that ever since the announcement, Bhandarkar is depressed. “Madhur has just locked himself up in the room and refuses to talk. He has already spent four crore on the film and is worried about losses. Basically, he feels betrayed that Ash kept him in the dark. If the baby is due in November, Ash must already be pregnant when she began shooting. She should have been honest and upfront about it.”
Aishwarya, and her family, meanwhile are reportedly furious with the insensitivity with which the filmmaker has reacted. Although she refused to say anything on record, sources close to her said, “Aishwarya is shocked at Madhur’s attitude. She is pregnant, not sick or bedridden, and is perfectly capable of shooting. There was only one action scene in the movie that shows her character running from a brothel and she has already shot that.”
Bhandarkar and UTV officials met Aishwarya twice last week to work out a solution. “Rather than congratulating Ash on the most awaited good news of her life, they just seemed worried about their film. Ash told them she’ll complete the shoot by July end. But they felt she will look overweight and unglamorous,” the source added, revealing that Aishwarya had so far not even been given a bound script of the film or paid a penny for her work.
In contrast, filmmaker Raj Kumar Santoshi, has decided to put his film, Ladies and Gentlemen, on hold till Aishwarya delivers and is fit to resume work. “Rajkumar Santoshi was graceful enough to come to our home to congratulate Ash and me. He said he’ll only make the film with Ash,” confirmed Ash’s husband, Abhishek. Meanwhile, reports suggested that actor Priyanka Chopra has offered to do the film now, a charge strongly denied by Chopra.
What the law says
It is unlawful for an employer to dismiss a woman from work on account of her pregnancy. However, "there is no specific clause in the labour law that talks of how long a pregnant woman can work as it depends on the contract,” says advocate Mrunalini Deshmukh.
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