No Jubilation, No Relief, No Triumph, Only An Eerie Calm For Bhansali

It is astonishing what  adversity can  do to you. It has been  8 long painful and mortifying months  now, filmmaker Sanjay Leela Bhansali,  the  master of epic  sagas  like Devdas and  BajiraoMastani which have made insane amounts of money while asserting the  director’s place as  the only true  successor  to the  epic   filmmakers K Asif, Mehboob  Khan, V Shantaram and  Raj Kapoor.

For  the past months  while  my dear  friend Sanjay has been attacked physically and emotionally  he has felt like none  of  the moviemoghuls mentioned above could  have felt. In fact Sanjay feels  like  a common criminal  being hounded  threatened  bullied and heckled  for a  crime whose nature he  isn’t aware  of.Maybe  he  needs to read the law books which say making films in this  country can be  damaging to the filmmaker’s health.

 The Padmavati crisis has  broken Sanjay physically and emotionally. Fir months now he hasn’t been eating or sleeping  properly. And he has started chain-smoking again.

“It’s Lataji’s  songs and  cigarettes which have  kept me going  all these months,” he tell me. I  stay quiet. I’ve no words of  consolation.

 To say Sanjay has been to  hell and back would be an  understatement. Living under  the constant shadow of threat and fear is like coping with a  fatal diseases, a  cancer of the spirit that eats  away at one’s soul. The very real threats  from  the fringe groups—and  I’ve been  first-hand witness to them where callers  on  his cellphone have been  shouting they would do him  much worse than merely behead him—is something  that no outsider would understand, let alone empathize with.

 The lack of real camaraderie within the film fraternity makes  it worse for someone as private as Sanjay Bhansali. He became  more vulnerable to attack when the attackers realized he had no support system to buffer the bullying. The post-midnight calls became  more  abusive and  the  threats  more  pecuniary in nature. If  you know what I  mean.

Yes, there were open offers  to  ‘stop all protests’  in exchange of fiscal favours.  Sanjay closed down his cell number. The calls then began coming on his home number which were sometimes  received by  his old ailing mother.

 For  Sanjay the  most important thing  at that moment was  to protect  his  mother from the hurt.  He stopped  watching news channels at home—and once the attacks gathered momentum and  the  security was beefed  up he  was at home most of the time—so that his mother wouldn’t be exposed  to her son’s  vilification .But then she would read  about Sanjay’s demonizing the next morning  in  the Gujarati newspaper  that she combed religiously.

The  situation at Sanjay Bhansali’s  home was  beyond depressing.At some  point Sanjay just gave up the fight and stopped thinking about the fate of Padmavati. He left all the marketing decision to his  producers Viacom 18 Motion Pictures. The decision to releasePadmavati on January 25 is the producer’s.

My friend Sanjay Bhansali has become  a bystander  in the drama of his own that’s being played out in full public view.No one  is sure how this bizarre narrative based  on  hearsay and political antipathy will pan  out finally. As Sanjay Bhansali told a friend, “Can  the film release in the states that have threatened  to ban it ? Does  the CBFCendorsement mean anything to those who want to stop my film at any cost?”

And  why do they want Padmavati, now titled Padmavat, stopped? A whim, an impulse? Or it is it something  far deeper that you or I cannot understand? I guess, like Jessica, we’ll never know who tried  to kill Padmavati.

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