This is not a review of this year's most awaited film. And why this year? PADMAAVAT, nee Padmavati, is perhaps the most anticipated film since Raj Kapoor's SATYAM SHIVAM SUNDERAM. The frenzy that has been incited by some fringe groups, the threats and abuses, the violence and the virulence have whipped up the nation's appetite.
Methinks, the Sena doth protest too much.
Having had the privilege of being close to the project from its inception, I can say one thing in all certainty. PADMAAVAT is a proud majestic anthem to the valour and pride of the Rajput community. Every frame, every movement exudes a nationalist fervor, a sense of unbridled pride and joy though without a trace of arrogance in being Indian. It is likely to see a major success, perhaps even bigger than BAAHUBALI.
I wonder what the fringe groups would have to say once the film is out. Will they apologise to the nation and to the community they purport to represent, for misleading them?
The film industry is a soft target for peripheral attention-seeking organisations. I had never heard of the Karni Sena till the PADMAAVAT protests started. Now we can't hear the end of their bickering and abuses. I get a feeling they will continue to protest against the film even after it releases, so habituated have they become to the limelight in the past months.
How will they survive without the platform of television channels to scream invectives at Bhansali and the film industry?
Maybe they can find another hapless filmmaker to target? This will keep on happening as long as an emasculated entertainment industry too afraid to speak up; too self-absorbed to care about what happens to a fellow-filmmaker.
As a prominent director explained: "If it was Karan Johar, he would have ten colleagues sitting besides him holding his hand under siege. But Sanjay Bhansali has not made too many friends in the industry. He's paying the price for it."
One direct fall-out of the unsolicited troubles that PADMAAVAT faced was the fear of history that now grips the film industry. The makers of bio-pic on Jhansi ki Rani are running through their script constantly to ensure no faction is offended by any of the dialogues or situations.
Nonetheless, trouble may visit any film. Some group or the other may come forward to say Kangana Ranaut is not from Jhansi. How dare she play Jhansi Ki Rani? I am surprised nobody brought up the Rajput angle vis-a-vis Deepika Padukone. Or the Islamic card to deride the casting of the Punjabi Ranveer Singh. Never have we seen a society so abjectly divided on the basis of caste and religion.
Here's the fallout on historicals in Bollywood: No one is going to make them anymore.
Says a filmmaker: "History and mythology are taboo, unless you're making a BAAHUBALI. Hats off to Aamir Khan for his determination to make "Mahabharat". He can be pulled up for anything -- from his wrong cultural identity to his lack of knowledge of the Epic. The best thing is to make a GOLMAAL or a JUDWAA in this country. Anything deeper gets you into trouble. So, for now, goodbye history."
Unless someone wants to make a film on the troubles that "Padmavaat" faced during its shooting and before its release. That would be one hysterical historical. It may become an even bigger hit than PADMAAVAT.
[By Subhash K Jha]