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Padmavati controversy: We are scared and feel threatened, say Bollywood filmmakers

The extreme hostility against Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s magnum opus Padmavati, whose release on December 1 had to be deferred, has stunned Bollywood. We talk to some filmmakers to gauge the mood of the industry.

bollywood Updated: Nov 30, 2017 17:16 IST
Rishabh Suri
Rishabh Suri
Hindustan Times
Padmavati,Padmavati controversy,Bajirao Mastani
Bollywood actor Deepika Padukone, who plays the titular role in Padmavati, faced death threats from hostile groups.

Bollywood and controversies go hand in hand. And the current example of Padmavati is emerging as the most extreme of them all. Lead actor Deepika Padukone and director Sanjay Leela Bhansali have been threatened with dire consequences on national television for having allegedly distorted historical facts in their magnum opus.

It was recently reported that a Thakur leader in Meerut, Uttar Pradesh, had offered Rs 5 crore as bounty for beheading Bhansali or Deepika. Earlier, when the film’s shooting was on in Jaipur, Rajasthan, people who said that their sentiments had been hurt — this fringe group claimed to have information that there was a dream sequence showing Queen Padmavati and Alauddin Khilji together — vandalised the film’s sets and slapped Bhansali, too. He later appeared in a video, in which he promised that “in our film... [they have] no such scene together which hurts anyone’s sentiments”. On another occasion, during a shooting schedule in Kolhapur, Maharashtra, the film’s sets were set on fire, damaging the expensive costumes and injuring a horse that was being used in the film. Political pressure has also been on the rise, with many states having banned the film.

In such a scenario, it’s natural to feel threatened when you’re someone who’s a part of the creative industry. Bollywood filmmaker Aanand L Rai says, “This is something that stays inside and kills the creative person within you. It’s going to be there with you for a longer time, and affects at least four-five stories that you have in your mind, for the next couple of years. This shouldn’t happen to any creative person.”

Echoing this sentiment, filmmaker Tigmanshu Dhulia says, “This is not happening for the first time — it’s discouraging for any artist. Filmmakers and artists don’t feel secure at all, [and since] the government is not saying anything, we feel unsafe, which is not a good trend. [Such behaviour] shouldn’t be encouraged by any party. Artists have always been at the gunpoint in history, and questioned authority.”

Gauri Shinde, whose film Dear Zindagi had run into trouble last year, due to the ban on Pakistani actors (Ali Zafar starred in her film), says, “Anything and everything can go wrong today. To live in fear has become the norm, rather than an exception. Filmmaking is a big game, with huge investments of time, money, and energy. Till the film actually hits the theatres, kuchh bhi ho sakta hai! [Now] there’s no sense of security.”

Many films in the past, such as Jodha Akbar, The Rising: The Ballad of Mangal Pandey, and Bhansali’s own Bajirao Mastani have run into trouble since they were based on historical characters of events. As Madhur Bhandarkar puts it, “People get emotional when it comes to politics and history. [While making a film] there’s so much at stake. The kind of money put in by technicians and filmmakers is huge. We are creative people, so I hope this controversy becomes a triumph for Bhansali.” Bhandarkar’s own recent release Indu Sarkar had to undergo a lot of cuts and uncertainty owing to the political nature of the film, which was set in the times of the 1970s Emergency.

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First Published: Nov 30, 2017 17:16 IST