The Karni Sena’s declaration that they would make a film on director Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s mother marks a new low in fringe bullying. One would think this alarming below-the-belt attack would finally wake up the film industry caught in a deep slumber.
As one prominent actor put it, “Today it’s Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s mom tomorrow it would be someone else’s mom. Where does this stop.” One of the film industry’s most vocal representatives, filmmaker Ashoke Pandit says it won’t stop. “The Bollywood bullying has only begun. Do they think the Karni Sena and other fringe groups are going to stop with Padmaavat? They’ve tasted blood. They’ll come back for more. They’ve realized this is an entertainment industry filled with cowards and pacifists.”
Pandit takes a dig at the empowered superstars who kept quiet through the attack on Padmaavat. “Apart from Javed-Shabana and Farhan Akhtar no one spoke out while Sanjay Bhansali was being attacked, not even the big superstars who have worked with Bhansali. They all looked the other way while the fire raged. Which is really strange. No one was asking them to descend on the streets with banners and candles. All you had to do was tweet your support or write a blog on Facebook. Big stars who are usually so vocal on social media were suddenly paralyzed by fear.”
Pandit sees the fringe attack on Padmaavat as an act of terrorism. “We dealt with underworld extortion in the 1990s. Now this is another form of extortion. We’ve seen in a sting operation members of a fringe group asking for Rs 1 crore to stop their protests. Now I hear the Karni Sena is ready to compensate Bhansali for his investment if they are given the rights of Padmaavat…what rights? And where are they finding such funds to fuel their hatred?”
Pandit sees this as just the beginning of Bollywood’s bullying. “The fringe groups will now try to muscle into as many films as possible. They will demand to know why Aamir Khan, a Muslim is making Mahabharat. Or why Mohammed Rafi sang one of the most beautiful Bhajans ‘Mann Tarpat Hari Darshan Ko Aaj’. The nightmare is never going to end now for the film industry. And for those elements in the film industry who are saying Bhansali didn’t speak up for himself, did not lodge an FIR after he was assaulted here is news. In Rajashthan when he was assaulted Bhansali saw police personnel touching the feet of Karni Sena members. It scared Bhansali off any attempts to get justice. However he did lodge an FIR after the second attack in Kolhapur. The filmmaking fraternity in Mumbai doesn’t seem to know what Bhansali has gone through. Worst of all, they don’t seem to care.”
Ashoke Pandit lauds the Pakistani censor board for clearing Padamaavat. “In spite of Allauddin Khilji being portrayed as a complete beast, they had no objection to the film. In India the censor board was very fair to Padmaavat. But they had to surrender to fringe elements and cover Deepika Padukone’s midriff in the ‘Ghoomar’ song. ”
That’s hardly a fringe benefit.