The habitually outspoken Shatrughan Sinha sounds a cautionary note when giving Padmavati an all-clear for release. “I am a big fan of Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s work. In fact I consider his Bajirao Mastani to be the greatest costume drama since K Asif’s Mughal-e-Azam. I wish Padmavati well, and not only for Sanjay Bhansali but also for Deepika Padukone. I think she is a gorgeous actress. I met her at the trial for my daughter’s film Ittefaq last week and we spoke about the problems faced by Padmavati. ‘Sir, dekhiye kya ho gaya hai,’ she complained. I asked her why they allowed matters to get so out of hand.”
Shatruji feels the matter is very sensitive but not unsolvable. “We are talking about the sensitivities of the very powerful Rajput community whose much-revered Queen must not be disrespected in any way. Suppose I speak of artistic freedom and the right of people to see the film, and something historically inaccurate emerges. Now we all know Bhansali’s credentials. But the protesters won’t be assured by just assurances and promises. They want to know if the filmmaker has lived up to his promise (of not denigrating the Queen). And they won’t rest easy until they know for sure.”
Shatruji has a solution. “Show the film to a neutral panel of historians. If they are reassured, everyone who is anxious would have to be reassured. At the moment the protesters only have the director’s word. It’s like the rumours that the BJP won’t give me a ticket to fight the next elections. No matter how much the party helmers protest there will always be doubt on the matter until the elections.’
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