Five top associations of Hindi film industry, including Indian Film and Television Director’s Association and Cine and TV Artistes Association, today, in harshest words, condemned the hostility that Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Padmavati has been subjected to by various sections, saying it is akin to abusing the film fraternity.
Bollywood artistes like Sudhir Mishra, Vikram Gokhale, Ashoke Pandit, Sushant Singh and Kushan Nandy (of Babumoshai Bandookbaaz fame) appealed to the state and the union government to provide a safe environment for the freedom of expression.
The organisations intend to write a letter to the Information and Broadcasting Minister Smriti Irani and Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh requesting them to give “confidence” to the film industry to make films without any fear.
The Sanjay Leela Bhansali film has been amid controversy since January after the director was slapped and the film’s set in Jaipur was vandalised by a few members of a Rajput group by the name of Rajput Karni Sena. Justifying the violence, the group had said that it protested against the “wrong facts presented in the film.” As the film nears its release (on December 1), the intensity of protests has increased with various calls demanding a ban on the film being made every other day. The issue has taken a political colour as members of different parties have come out and spoken for and against the film.
Mishra said the aggression towards Padmavati is a precursor to an environment where filmmakers will stop attempting anything on Indian history.
“This matter is absurd. No one has seen the film. The director of the film is a responsible, brilliant filmmaker. He has said that what he has been accused of he has not done anything like that. Secondly, I don’t understand this extra-constitutional body… There is a body called the Censor Board of Film Certification. Sanjay Leela Bhansali will submit the film to CBFC. That’s the body which is supposed to pass the film.”
“It is an attack on freedom. This is stifling. History is ours. You cannot stop the release of a film. This will create an environment where people will fear attempting making films on Indian history,” Mishra said.
Singh, the general secretary of CINTAA, questioned the government’s silence on the issue and said that people from the film fraternity feel frustrated to fight for the release of movies every now and then.
“Sanjay Leela Bhansali didn’t ask us to hold this conference… We all are frustrated, angry and upset. Till when our fraternity members will keep asking for freedom of expression to make films? Why do we need to fight for such a basic right all the time? My question is for the state and central government – why are you silent? People from your parties are openly giving threats, abusing our families, threatening to burn theatres. I have the right to ask for an assurance from the government,” he said.
Veteran actor and CINTAA president Vikram Gokhale, who worked with Bhansali in Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam, said there is no point of expressing oneself through art in a country if democratic means are not respected.
“I am against private censorship. I have worked with Sanjay Leela Bhansali, he is a responsible man. Even if he has made a mistake, you have a pen, media platform to express your opinion. But vandalising set, indulging in physical violence is extremely foolish,” the actor said.
No one from the Padmavati team was present at the conference. When asked about the team’s absence, Pandit said that someone who is under attack “will not come on streets.”
He added that filmmakers don’t deserve to be treated with disdain and it’s high time such attacks stopped for they have made directors and writers fearful.
“We are hurt because we have been abused and accused. We are filmmakers, creative people and we don’t deserve this kind of treatment. Every now and then we see our makers being heckled. We work hard, we make films. Bhansali is a symbol and attack on him is like abusing the film fraternity,” he said.