While refusing to react to actress Swara Bhaskar’s Open Letter condemning the alleged endorsement of the ancient practice of jauhar (self-immolation), filmmaker Sanjay Leela Bhansali takes the opportunity to address the issue of jauhar.
“Nowhere in the entire episode showing these fabulously brave women perishing rather than succumbing to the advances of the invader have I come forward to express my own approval of the practice of jauhar. In Satyajit Ray’s Devi Sharmila Tagore’s character is seen as a victim of blind religious faith. It didn’t mean that Manikda (Ray) was endorsing blind faith.”
Bhansali dismisses the belief that he’s propagating jauhar in Padmaavat. “It’s like saying Ritwick Ghatak approved of tuberculosis in Meghe Dhaka Tara just because his heroine succumbed to it…or that Hrishikesh Mukherjee endorsed cancer in Anand…It is the story, it is what happened …Why must a filmmaker be answerable to socio-political interpretations for every action and reaction in his cinema?” asks Sanjay Leela Bhansali.
The filmmaker has received tremendous responses to the jauhar sequence. “Not all positive. But that’s okay. A healthy debate is an essential part of every democracy. I am glad my film is giving people a reason to think aloud.”