Reacting to the heat faced by Sanjay Leela Bhansali for his upcoming magnum opus Padmavati, members of the film fraternity came forward to express support for the director. At a press conference, organised by Indian Film and Television Directors’ Association (IFTDA) in Mumbai yesterday, members from several film organisations — Cine and TV Artists Association (CINTAA) and Federation of Western India Cine Employees (FWICE), as well as filmmaker Sudhir Mishra and veteran actor Vikram Gokhale — were present. However, no member of the Padmavati team was there.
On behalf of the film fraternity, the members extended support and solidarity towards Bhansali and appealed to Information & Broadcasting (I&B) Minister Smriti Irani that the government condemn the threats made to the film’s director and cast. “We request the government to extend an assurance that they can safely release the film, and strict action will be taken against those who break the law,” said director Ashoke Pandit, who was chairing the press conference.
Padmavati has been at the centre of controversy since January when a fringe group, Karni Sena, attacked the Padmavati director and vandalised the film set in Jaipur. The group is opposing the film’s release as they believe that the depiction of Padmavati, the supposed Rajput princess, is an affront to her reputation and that the film distorts history. Over the last few days, several BJP leaders from the states of Rajasthan, Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh, have also opposed the film’s release.
Mishra pointed out that none of the people who claim the film distorts history have watched the film. “Allow the film to release, allow the filmmaker his freedom of expression. If you disagree with his depiction, raise slogans, protest in a peaceful manner,” he said. Stressing on the fact that the creative fraternity has been under attack by official and unofficial censorship for decades, Gokhale added that it’s immaterial if Bhansali is an established and respected filmmaker. “This behaviour is a mockery of democracy,” he said.
The members added that a peaceful protest will be held on November 16 outside Film City. Also, as an expression of solidarity towards the film and Bhansali, all shoots will be stopped on that day between 4-4.15pm. “Mr Bhansali has not asked us to express support for him. This is an initiative we are taking on our own. We, as members of the film industry, want to express our anger at being abused or manhandled by those who disagree with our creativity and work,” said Pandit.
While the members were equivocally against any stifling of creative voices, none of them extended support to the other two, smaller films that are at the centre of controversy, S Durga and Nude. The two films were selected by the jury to be screened at the Panorama section of the upcoming International Film Festival of India (IFFI). However, the I&B Ministry has dropped both the films from the festival programming, without the knowledge of the jury.
When asked by The Indian Express why the members were appealing to the I&B Ministry in support of Bhansali but have not extended solidarity to these two films, which have been ‘censored’ by the government, they remained largely ambiguous. Mishra said that they recently stood up for Udta Punjab and Lipstick Under My Burkha too. “The industry has started to unite and take a stand. You need to give it time,” said Mishra.