Finally when Viacom 18 Motion Pictures went official with the release date of their long-in-the-aching—and I do mean, aching—Padmavat(i) the first thing that Sanjay Bhansali’s very worried mother did was to rush into their cosy Puja Room in their home to pray the film’s smooth release.
A mom’s prayers can never go unanswered.At least SLB’s mom’s prayers have never gone unanswered. Three has not been single film of his that has not been in trouble. Right from his directorial debut Khamosh: The Musical which went from (first-choice) MadhuriDixit to Dimple Kapadia to Kajol to finally land in Manisha Koirala’s lap, to Devdas(where producer Bharat Shah moved from hospital to prison while Bhansali tried to put together the finances from dayto-day shooting) to Ram Leela and Bajirao Mastani(both besieged by political cultural protests) there has never been a time when SLB has made a stress-free film.
“I don’t know what it’s like to make a stress-free film. Stress is so much part of my cinema that I fear I may not be able to make a film without it,” SLB once told me.
The director tries to shield his mother from the hurt that he experiences on every project. But she knows.She has been watching her son suffer through Padmavati the worst ordeal he has faced as a filmmaker.
“What has he done to deserve this? One of the finest filmmakers of the country hounded, threatened,bullied, assaulted…This is not fair,” Mrs Leela Bhansali told a friend recently.
A close family friend says, “Sanjay hasn’t slept at all for days and weeks. He has stopped taking his evening walks as they are not safe and he doesn’t enjoy being seen by neighbours walking with security staff. He is not been meeting anyone,not even his actors and technicians.”
Concerned and worried Ranveer Singh and Deepika Padukone the lead players of SLB’s last three films including of course the beleaguered Padmavat(i) have been inquiring of their director’swellbeing.
“Ranveer and Deepika have tried to reach out.No one else from the film industry except Aishwarya and Sonam Kapoor have made any effort to contact SLB. He has been completely isolated in his moment of crisis, grappling with the situation as best as he could, surviving only on prayers and his favourite Lata Mangeshkar’s songs.”
When Viacom finally confirmed the January 25 release date there were conflicting responses from different sections of the industry.
“But will they be able to release the film with all the protests still going on?” asked one fellow-filmmaker.
This is a valid and pervasive trepidation . Even as Viacom has taken a deep breath and plunged into a release in the midst of assorted hurdles, the question of how the next two weeks pans out before ‘D’ Day , looms large.
“Be very quiet. No publicity, no marketing. The actors won’t be seen promoting or talking about the film.And hope for the best,” says a Padmavati team-member.