Filmmaker Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s ‘Padmavati’ hasn’t ceased to be in the headlines over the last few weeks. In a fresh turn of events, 20 bodies representing various factions of the film industry including filmmakers and technicians observed a 15-minute blackout in Film City on Sunday evening as a mark of protest against the bullying ways of supposed groups and the silence maintained by the governments of various states. The blackout was observed between 4.30 pm and 4.45 pm in the presence of over a thousand-strong crowd that comprised members of different associations and the aam junta.
Titled ‘Main Azaad Hoon?’, the protest was observed at the main entrance of the Film City studios in Goregaon to show the industry’s solidarity for Bhansali and to honour the creative forces of the fraternity. “We didn’t want to disturb the on-going work of our fellow producers, technicians and artistes which is the reason the duration of the blackout was only 15 minutes; but in those 15 minutes, no one shot a frame for their show or movie. Everyone peacefully resumed work because we know everyone is chasing a deadline,” said Ashoke Pandit (active member and office bearer at The Indian Film and Television Directors Association), adding, “What is also shocking is the strange unity with which all the political outfits are supporting the fringe groups in their act of hooliganism. The film was scheduled to open in cinemas on December 1 but now its release has been deferred and a new date is yet to be announced.
Firoz (Raja) Khan, the senior vice president of the Junior Artiste Association, believes that protests like this are important now to protect the bread and butter of the current generation of craftsmen and the future, too. He elaborated, “We don’t want the next generation to inherit fear from us. Sanjay Leela Bhansali is one of our best filmmakers who helms epics. Every department works hard to put a film like that together and so many of us earn our living by working on films like his. If filmmakers like him decide to not make films, whose loss do you think it is? Freedom of expression ka kya hua? I have worked with Bhansali and I know he is very sensitive to detail. He looks at every single junior artiste before a shot. If he has gone wrong somewhere, we have courts and the CBFC to pull him up. This open dhamkibaazi is not tolerable.”
Pointing out that they are expected to support every social campaign that the central government initiates,” Pandit said, “Amitabh Bachchan supports polio awareness. Several actresses have supported Beti Padhao Beti Bachao; Akshay Kumar and several other actors supported the Swacch Bharat Abhiyan. And what is the government doing when open threats are being issued to members of this fraternity? So far, nothing! Aaj Bhansali par ban aayi hai, khamosh rahe to kal hum sab par ban aayegi,” adds Ashoke.
Bhupinder Sayan, general secretary of the Indian films and television choreographers association, seconded Firoz Khan’s opinion and added, “We stand by our rights to work freely, without any fear and support Mr Bhansali when his professional freedom is being threatened. This problem needs a quick resolution. People have been asking questions about ‘Padmavati’ but are they giving him a chance to answer? Give him the space for it. If there is anything objectionable, the CBFC will direct accordingly. We cannot be dictated by fringe bodies. It affects the morale of an entire fraternity. We will take it to a point where the noise reaches the right ears. If the fringe groups have a reason to stand united, don’t we have ours?”