'Padmaavat' row: Films being targeted aggressively, says Vishal Bhardwaj

Last Updated 26 January 2018, 11:55 IST

Critically acclaimed filmmaker Vishal Bhardwaj said today that people had no right to violently protest against "Padmaavat" as it was cleared by the censor board and given the go-ahead by the Supreme Court.

Speaking on the second day of the Jaipur Literature Festival, the 52-year-old director and music composer also alleged that the government was hand in glove with protesters.

"If the Supreme Court and the censor board have given clearance, what is the problem? If they are saying that there is nothing objectionable in the movie, then we should not pay heed to people who are protesting on the streets," he said.

Bhardwaj also said that if the state government was unable to control protests, it should resign.

The film, which is based on 16th Century poet Malik Muhammad Jayasi's "Padmavat", got mired in controversy after various Rajput groups, including the Karni Sena, alleged that it distorts history, a claim repeatedly denied by director Sanjay Leela Bansali.

Historians are divided on whether Padmavati actually existed.

The film starring Deepika Padukone, Shahid Kapoor and Ranveer Singh was released yesterday after the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) cleared it last month with a 'U/A' certificate and five modifications, including title change from "Padmavati" to "Padmaavat".

"People used to get offended earlier also. Now, the offenders are being patronised. They are being encouraged by enforcement agencies to throw stones... Nobody has the right to participate in violent protests when the director has made the changes that he was told to make," he said.

"Indian films are being targeted aggressively. The film industry is very sad. The scary part is that the protesters are getting away with it," the filmmaker said.

"Today the gun is at your head. It's all going in the wrong direction. If you have to curb and control your thoughts, how can it be called a democratic society...Earlier you could criticise the prime minister and the policies, now you have to think twice," Bhardwaj said.

He said the present time was the "best time" for artists as they were being heard and paid attention to like never before.

"When you are suppressed, repressed or silenced by the state, then you have an enemy to react to. Otherwise the enemy is so useless. Earlier, if you said something they wouldn't pay attention to it, now you know you are being heard. Even if you are silent, your silence is piercing them.

"This is a beautiful time for art and the artists. They have to strangulate us so that we can scream. And this is the time to scream," Bhardwaj said.

"Also, it is up to the masses whom they want to support. Do they want to side with the artists or do they want to side with the oppressor," he said.

On the film fraternity's stand over the "Padmaavat" row, Bhardwaj said the community was united, but lamented that it is powerless and is not being taken seriously.

"We speak in one voice. We are brothers in arms, but are not warriors. We are with Sanjay Leela Bhansali, but have no power and are considered as mere entertainers," he said.

Bhardwaj told PTI that the only way forward was to make wise use of the chance that people get after every five years when they exercise their franchise.

"Every five years we get a chance, this is the only way to fight this out," he said at the Lit Fest that began yesterday and will end on January 29.

On his obsession with Shakespeare, Bhardwaj said the bard's stories are "timeless" and are so "dramatic and entertaining" that he wants to continue to do adaptations from the writer's work.

He said he was also planning to do a trilogy on Shakespearean plays based on comedy.

"My first encounter with Shakespeare was in school. It was with 'The Merchant of Venice'. I was too young to understand it. Later I read Macbeth... Ideally that is how I got introduced to Shakespeare," the filmmaker said.

He said he wanted to explore the works of other Indian writers such as Munshi Premchand, Sharad Joshi and Ruskin Bond.

Terming Haider as his favourite Shakespearean adaptation, Bhardwaj said he had matured a lot as a filmmaker when he made that movie.

"Basharat Peer's book 'Curfewed Night' inspired me to do Haider in Kashmir. It was a personal film for me and I wanted to dedicate it to my father who died of a cardiac arrest on the road after a case was brought against us by a lawyer," he said.

(Published 26 January 2018, 11:54 IST)

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