It is extraordinary that even before anyone knows what it depicts, Bollywood film Padmavati has become a hot topic of discussion. And for all the wrong reasons. If anyone ought to debate its contents minutely before passing it for commercial release, it is the Central Board of Film Certification. Sanjay Leela Bhansali, a top-notch director, cannot be unaware of the sensitivities and sensibilities of the protesters making noises against his film.
A lot of money is riding on Padmavati and its makers can be trusted not to risk it by knowingly offending any section of the people. The fact that the film has been dogged by controversy from the day it went on the sets, Bhansali might have seen it as a double-edged weapon, for if the protests added to costs and time-overruns, these also lent the film a huge cache, arousing wide public interest. Given the latest protests, it seems, Bhansali was wrong in not having stilled the controversy right in the beginning. Creative freedom must not be circumscribed by the fear of self-styled defenders of historical figures.
But when the film-makers claim not to present a ‘true’ life-story of a revered figure, all controversy must cease. Unfortunately, thanks largely to the oxygen of publicity, elements such as the hitherto little known Karni Sena have felt emboldened. Politicians always ready to pander to the sectional interests too have stepped in. However, the ugly fracas must end soon. Bollywood’s precarious economy will nosedive should the Bhansali film stay canned or suffer losses due to threats to cine-goers. And as for the Karni Sena, it should go and brush up on its history.
And if Bhansali declaims in bold letters in a language they can read that the film is a work of fiction, not fact, they should go back and embrace a worthwhile cause for protesting. Leave Padmavati for the censor board, now under a genuinely creative person in Prasoon Joshi. He will vet it thoroughly before release. Joshi is certain to take on board all objections before certifying the film.