Madhur Bhandarkar has finally spoken up about ousting Aishwarya Rai Bachchan from his film Heroine and shelving the film altogether, a matter that became hot meat for debate. In an open letter shared on Tuesday, he wrote, “The entire event would not have taken place if, on the onset, the actress would have informed the state of her health an impending maternity…. The truth was hidden from us. We learnt about the entire thing from news channels like the rest of the world … Filmmaking in the Mumbai film industry is not a mere business, but one big fraternity who functions on total faith and trust.”
His letter went on to say, “This decision of pulling the plug (on Heroine) had a devastating effect on me … It was like an avalanche collapsing… I was in a state of total shock and depression… I have been working on the script for almost a year and a half. I could not come to the office for almost 8 days for the fear of facing those people whose bread and butter depended upon the film…”. Bhandarkar also added that the film was announced in Cannes on May 13, while the shooting commenced on June 7. “There was a gap of 24 days ... things could have been reworked keeping the state of matters in mind, and this crisis could have been averted,” he said, adding that it was a collective decision of the producers to pull the plug on the project after “stoic and solid reasoning.”
However, he says he has no disregard for pregnancy, and it was his concern for Ash’s health that made him call off the movie. “Motherhood is pious and I am humbled by it … but I will never knowingly put a woman in harm’s way, knowing the delicate nature of her health. Heroine entails a huge canvas of around 40 locations in which heavy duty scenes involving massive crowds are to be shot…. scenes of the actress being mobbed… adult content… the lead actress was required to smoke on screen… there are other actors smoking in the same frame entailing to passive smoking which would prove detrimental to a pregnant woman’s health…,” he writes, explaining how one of his associate directors “had a bad fall” while rehearsing a sequence to be filmed on Ash. “I would have suffered a major guilt throughout my life if anything were to happen to her (Ash) on my direction.” Another reason behind his decision was the baby bump: “Cinema is a visual medium and keeping in mind the physical state of the actress ... the story would land up in jeopardy post 65 days of her pregnancy.” When contacted, Ash refused to comment on the letter.
The Heroine that didn’t make it
Heroine, a film about a fading film star and her tumultuous journey, is known to have been on Bhandarkar’s mind ever since he joined the film industry. The first look of the film was unveiled at the Cannes film festival in May. Initially, Kareena Kapoor was approached for Ash’s role, but the deal fell apart due to creative differences between Kapoor and the director. It was after a week of filming that Amitabh Bachchan broke the news of Ash’s pregnancy on his blog.