SC Stands By Padmavati, Shows The State Its Place

On Wednesday there was uncertainty and fear surrounding the future  of  Padmavati. Will the producers Viacom 18 Motion Pictures actually be able to release the film in spite of the threat? The fringe group claiming to represent the Rajput community, has sent out threatening  letters  to individual multiplex theatres across the country.

A worried manager of a leading  multiplex told me, “Even if we overlook the threat  and decide  to release  the  film  the mall owners would be worried about the security  of  the shoppers .So if the mall owner says  no, we can’t release Padmavat. And what  about the patrons who some to see PadMan?They will be scared away  because of  the violent treats  for Padamavat.”

But on Thursday  the  clouds of doubts were partially dispelled  when the honourable Supreme Court ruled  against the ban imposed on the film by 4 Indian states.

 Not just  Sanjay Leela Bhansali the entire film industry, petrified to speak up, breathed a sigh of relief.One  of  the  first filmmakers to react with unbridled joy at  the SC’s verdict was R  Balki whose PadMan gets directly affected by the release of Padmavati on the same day.

Says Balki, “This  is  a victory democracy, the right tofreedom  of expression and for the  film industry being  held at ransom by fringe groups. I can’t even begin to imagine the  relief that Viacom 18 and Sanjay Leela Bhansali must be feeling.”

It is  good to hear a  voice from the film industry finally  speak  up. There  has been a strange quietude among  Sanjay Bhansali’s colleagues. Perhaps they are too scared to speak up. A  prominent  actor who is member  of  parliament had promised to raise the Padmavat issue in parliament. That actor  is now tightlipped,  afraid  to talk.

“It is not fear  of the fringe groups that keeps me from raising my voice in parliament. It is  the fear of being proven wrong.What  iftomorrow, when  the film releases and it has something genuinely  objectionable  in it?  Even earlier in Bajirao Mastani , Bhansali had portrayed  the Maratha warrior as dancing to  an aggressive song.What  if something  like that pops up in Padmavat?” asks  this otherwise-fearless parliamentarian.

Wait-and-watch seems  to be  the  policy regarding Padmavat. In the days before the release of the volatile film on January 25 we can expect several private  screenings  for various influential elements  including  perhaps some leaders  from the fringe  groups.

Back at  the Bhansalis’ residence there was cautious optimism  about the SC  order to ban  the  ban, so to speak. Minutes after the  SC  verdict the filmmaker who hasn’t slept much in recent weeks was on the phone  in  a huddle over release  plans. A  close family member said. “It’s great  to  hear the  Supreme  Court lift the ban. But will the States pay ahead? And  more importantly, will  the  fringe groups listen to the  verdict?”

Good point, that.  Just an hour after the SC’s  wonderful verdict  theatre owners  received renewed warnings.

A  theatre owner in Bihar says he is not releasing the  on January 25. “Even if Nitishji doesn’t ban  the film I won’t release  the film on 25th. I will see how it goes with the  other theatres on January 25 and  release the  film accordingly on January 26.”

Long live democracy.

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