Feb 232018
 

If the grapevine is to be believed, the Padmaavat success bash slated for tonight stands cancelled. It was to be held aboard a floating restaurant, off Bandra Reclamation

Sanjay Leela Bhansali
Sanjay Leela Bhansali

If the grapevine is to be believed, the Padmaavat success bash slated for tonight stands cancelled. It was to be held aboard a floating restaurant, off Bandra Reclamation. Buzz is that director Sanjay Leela Bhansali expressed his unavailability citing seasickness. So the makers decided to postpone it to a later date on terra firma. Strange that Bhansali did not inform them when they were planning the party. It’s also the filmmaker’s birthday today. It would have been a double celebration.

Also read: Padmaavat’s grand success party to be held aboard an ocean liner

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Feb 192018
 

Padmaavat makers hire ocean liner to celebrate the success of Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s magnum opus while it heads towards Rs 300-crore mark at box office

The Ark Deck Bar where the party will be held. Pic/Pradeep Dhivar
The Ark Deck Bar where the party will be held. Pic/Pradeep Dhivar 

After the trouble the makers went through to ensure Padmaavat reaches the audience, it is time for Sanjay Leela Bhansali, Ranveer Singh and Deepika Padukone to pop the bubbly. With the magnum opus racing past the Rs 275-crore mark at the box office, mid-day has learnt that the makers have planned a grand bash for the weekend to celebrate the success. The team has zeroed in on February 24 since it also marks Bhansali’s 56th birthday. Given the director’s love for everything grand, the bash too will be just as special – it will be held aboard an ocean liner.

Deepika Padukone, Sanjay Leela Bhansali and Ranveer Singh
Deepika Padukone, Sanjay Leela Bhansali and Ranveer Singh

Says a source from the production team, “The team did not want a run-of-the-mill party at a five star. So they zeroed in on the Ark Deck Bar, the floating restaurant that has an open-air bar deck, a sit-down restaurant and private dining areas. It not only offers stunning view as it sails off the coast into the sea, but will also give the stars privacy from the paparazzi.” He adds that the do was initially scheduled for February 21 but was later pushed to Saturday to coincide with the auteur’s birthday.

Shahid Kapoor
Shahid Kapoor

While Bhansali, Singh and Padukone will celebrate their third consecutive success, Maharawal Ratan Singh aka Shahid Kapoor will be conspicuous by his absence. “Shahid won’t be present as he’s shooting in Tehri for Batti Gul Meter Chalu. A guest list of about 150 people has been drawn up that includes other Bollywood stars as well. The Ark is just a boat ride away from the Sea Link jetty. Everyone including Deepika and Ranveer will be ferried across.” The source adds that an extensive menu comprising European, Indian, Italian and pan-Asian cuisine will be laid out. When contacted, Bhansali’s team refused to comment.

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Feb 192018
 

Padmaavat has gone ahead to break all records to become the biggest grosser of 2018 both in India and overseas markets

Deepika Padukone
Deepika Padukone in a still from Padmaavat’s song, Ghoomar.

Sanjay Leela Bhansali spells magic with his films in the true sense. Known for his larger than life portrayal of cinema, the filmmaker’s stories are also one to set the cash registers ringing. Beating his previous record of ‘Goliyon Ki Rasleela – Ram Leela’ and ‘Bajirao Mastani’ of Rs 202 crore and Rs 358 crore respectively, ‘Padmaavat‘ has gone ahead to break all records to become the biggest grosser of 2018 both in India and overseas markets. The movie has clocked in a whopping Rs 540 crore!

Considering the lean period with no holidays or long weekends, the magnum opus has been an absolute money spinner! With both critics and audiences loving the period drama, ‘Padmaavat’ starring Deepika Padukone, Ranveer Singh, and Shahid Kapoor, looks like it will break a few more box office myths.

Ranveer Singh, who is on a high after recording his biggest hit with this film and is receiving appreciation for his portrayal of Alauddin Khilji in the film, says box office numbers are a validation for him. “It feels amazing. As an entertainer, box office numbers are a validation that I am being able to entertain audiences and, to me, that’s everything,” says Singh. Padmaavat has earned the actor commercial and critical acclaim. The movie released on January 25.

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Feb 182018
 

Ahead of the release of her drama, Veerey Di Wedding, Swara Bhaskar reflects on her career, and moving from small-budget to commercial films

Still from Veerey Di Wedding
Still from Veerey Di Wedding

Connecting with Swara Bhaskar for this interview, her open letter to Sanjay Leela Bhansali, slamming his glorification of jauhar in Padmaavat, invariably steers the conversation. Referring to her act of voicing the opinion of many as she chided the celebration of a regressive tradition, I tell her, “It was a bold move!” Pat comes her reply, “And an incredibly stupid one too, I hear…” We laugh at the plight of an industry that doesn’t encourage debate around art, even though art, in its truest sense, is debatable. Yet, Bhasker promises that Bollywood has more good than is visible. In a chat with mid-day, she talks about why she isn’t agitated with the reaction to her letter, being shrugged off by award gala organisers despite delivering acclaimed acts, and how her next, Veerey Di Wedding, aims to change the way films led by women are perceived.

Swara Bhaskar

Edited excerpts from the interview:

What has been your take away from the controversy that attached itself to your open letter to Bhansali?
I didn’t even know that I was so famous, or my voice mattered this much. Although in a twisted, warped way, it did remind me of the reach I had. However, the Bollywood I know deserves more credit than we give it, because the hatred I received for writing that letter came from social media users, not the industry. Bollywood braves too much criticism. It has accepted me the way I am, and given me the space to thrive. Fundamentally, I have fierce opinions. And if I have them, I must be prepared to deal with trolls. In Bollywood, however, everyone is only trying hard to hold their ground, despite all odds. So, this is not the industry that must be blamed.

Do you find it difficult to be outspoken?
I have to be careful about the things I say because it will be up for scrutiny. Words are twisted out of context to imply something else. This is also probably the reason behind artistes’ hesitation to back issues that they feel strongly about.

Your next, Veerey Di Wedding, is being helmed by four women. What change do you believe this film will being about?
Primarily, I hope it changes the way people perceived films that are helmed by women. Four women coming together for a film does not imply it will be another Sex And The City. This is not a chick flick. It’s a story of women, their flaws and personal journeys. Not every film featuring women must have a social message or a cause to promote. This one is about relationships. I’ve enjoyed working with the cast [Kareena Kapoor, Sonam Kapoor and Shikha Talsania]. I have worked harder on this film than I have on any other. I hope it changes the way films featuring women as protagonists are viewed in Bollywood.

How do you think the industry has changed since 2010, when you debuted with Guzaarish?
It is now more accepting of outsiders. I’ve had a wholesome journey. I have seen how difficult it is to make it, yet learnt how easy it can be. My journey has been easier than that of several others. Given that I am well educated, I never lacked confidence. I didn’t have financial constraints either. Also, in this industry, talent nahi chupta. And that understanding is relieving. It’s interesting to see how the palette of the industry is changing today. Scripts are different, characters are distinct, and carefully created. The role of a hero’s sister, the kind I played in Prem Ratan Dhan Payo (2015), demanded more from me than merely tying a rakhi to my brother [played by Salman Khan]. A single scene, a single line can make your life. I remember, when I entered the industry, among the first people I met was Naseer sir [Naseeruddin Shah]. He asked me, “Do you love acting so much that you’ll die if you don’t do it?” I thought, ‘That’s dramatic. Who dies if they don’t act?’ But, now I know what he meant. This industry demands so much from you that unless you have conviction, a passion to survive, you won’t. Anything and everything can drive you nuts. I’m ecstatic that my craft is valued today.

Despite being among the most acclaimed actors for your role in Anarkali of Aarah last year, you didn’t receive many awards. Is that upsetting?
Awards are important for someone like me, who has entered Bollywood without any backing from a bigwig. So, an award is a validation that I, a newbie, am getting my due when I perform well. But, they aren’t deal breakers for me. Apart from the opinion of the jury, several factors go into determining the winner.

Do you think box-office figures are one of them?
Yes. See, I don’t think [good] box office figures are signs of appreciation. Great content is celebrated at the BO, but often, so are poor films. Associating economics with a movie is confusing. Anarkali was a passion project. We struggled to release it. I went to every big studio to get the backing. I don’t blame them for not producing it because, sometimes, businessmen can’t see content objectively. For me, the film was a hit. It released in a pithy 300 screens at first, and still won hearts. I got messages on social media. Passersby at airports stopped to talk to me about it. So, awards or not, my validation came from the audiences’ reception. I hope it marked the beginning of a trend where content-heavy films that don’t feature stars are also backed by [big] producers.

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Feb 022018
 

deepika_shahidShahid Kapoor plays the royal king – Rawal Ratan Singh (Husband of Padmavati played by Deepika Padukone). But, despite having Ranveer Singh and Deepika playing famous and central characters in the film Shahid has been receiving many accolades for his role as a king and for his chemistry with the actress.

However, it is was for the first time that Shahid was paired up with Deepika in a film, when we asked him, how was it working with Deepika Padukone as your chemistry with her has come out well in the film even after working with each other for the first time, he replied, “I was going from romance to drama between Ranveer ((Singh) and Deepika (Padukone).” (Laughs)

Surprisingly, talking further on it he stated that from the time Deepika has been in this industry there were few offers that were offered to both of them but, the duo couldn’t make for it due to some of the other reason.

“For 10 years or so, because I have been here for longer than her… as long she has been here we have had kind of offers which has come and gone. Somehow, we have never ended up saying yes to a film together and when this film happened and sir told me to do it. I said yes and it was like after 10 years we were finally doing a film. This is a film worthy enough for those 10 years to have happened. It’s really that we have done this film together,” said Shahid.

Not just that, but, the actor somewhere gives a hint that the filmmaker Sanjay Leela Bhansali would like to see them in another film. “In fact, I remember Sanjay (Leela Bhansali) sir saw the film and the minute he got up he looked back and he said, “I want you and Deepika to do another film together.” You know because this film did not have that much time for the romance to (come out). It was all very hushed up, things are moving and too much is happening (in the film). I think we made a great pair and I am sure we will do something more together in the future and there is more that can be juiced than what “Padmaavat” had of course.”

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Jan 312018
 

Sanjay Leela Bhansali celebrates the success of his most controversial film yet, inspired to make more films ‘abhi ke abhi’

Sanjay Leela Bhansali
Sanjay Leela Bhansali

What are you feeling at this moment?
I feel like making more films. People have given Padmaavat so much love that I feel, aur film banaya jaaye abhi ke abhi [more films should be made immediately]. But, I’ve told my staff to take a month-long break before we resume. There are mixed feelings because we have endured so much. We weren’t sure whether the film would release. Then, when we got a clearance, there was a ban in select states. Even today, I pray that the film releases in those states. At the same time, I feel accomplished. The film had a difficult subject but it turned out the way I wanted it to. It has been executed to the best of my ability, almost near perfection. I don’t think many would have been able to pull it off. It [enduring opposition] was humiliating and angering. There was injustice. But, I had a rare piece of work that I was trying to protect. It’s been an experience of a lifetime.

Has the film turned out precisely how you wanted it to?
This is what I wanted to make. Obviously, any filmmaker would change a few things to make the final cut better, but, for me, this is the film that I had set out to make. There were no changes that I [was compelled to] incorporate, barring the alteration of the name to Padmaavat. And I agreed to do so because the film is based on Malik Muhammad Jayasi’s book by the same name. Rumours of us being forced to make X number of cuts weren’t true. Prasoon Joshi [CBFC chief] gave us a fair certificate when you consider the pressure that was on him. And now, when one sees the film, s/he questions what the hullabaloo was all about? I released a video promising people that there was nothing wrong in the film. I am proud that I made the film that I wanted under such circumstances. I loved my work so much that I had to fight without getting tired. The media provided support, as did people from the fraternity.

Do you think the industry could have been a more vocal in their resistance against the fringe groups. On instances, celebrities simply responded to your circumstances stating that it was your film, not theirs.
This is my film, it is my battle. A few of them, like Javed Akhtar, Shabana Azmi, Samir Soni, Sudhir Mishra and Ashoke Pandit, supported me earnestly and told me to stay strong. But, there was no obvious solution to my fight. So, everyone was helpless. They wondered where it is that Sanjay Leela Bhansali should go [for help]. No one understood the reason behind this uproar. So, I wasn’t sure if things would have been different if I had received more support. But I am happy with the manner in which the industry backed me.

After this incident, do you feel artistes are being stripped of the freedom of expression?
We enjoy freedom of expression, but it comes with responsibility. I am a responsible filmmaker. When I say there is nothing amiss in the film, people should believe me. Why am I answerable to some fringe group that says we are the torch bearers of history? There is a government, and a Censor Board. I am answerable to them. Also, when the states decide against releasing the film [after the Supreme Court’s approval], only because people are angry, that is a failure of democracy. The states should act against them [fringe groups] and show them their place. They should be told that they don’t have a right [to cause a stir]. If they want to protest, they must do so in a civil manner. Yes, there is a sense of intolerance that is rising by the day. I hope artistes fight fearlessly. Such uproars cause distractions, drain our energy and lead to demoralisation. A musician can’t be told to not sing a particular raag because it doesn’t suit temperaments. A painter can’t be stopped from painting something, lest someone protests by throwing acid on his face, or beheads him, or even cuts his nose. These were the threats that we received. This doesn’t happen anywhere else in the world. It’s very scary. I have overcome it, but the anger hasn’t subsided. We have the right to say whatever we want to say. If it doesn’t suit you, don’t listen to me, or watch my film. People are protesting against elements that haven’t even been showcased in the film. The greatest support came in the form of the audiences’ decision to go to cinema halls and watch it. It was a message to those who protested, a sign that viewers aren’t scared. If people’s voices get louder, in the future, we won’t succumb to them.

The depiction of Jauhar has received flak from a few, with Swara Bhaskar even recently penning an open letter criticising it…
Jauhar, in this context, is an act of war. Our men have died on the battlefield, but the war doesn’t end there. They believe that the Rajputs have been vanquished. But, the women wage the [final] war. They decide that not a single woman or child would be subjugated to rape, or violation. That’s what happened then. So, are people questioning Padmavati’s decision?

I would assume they are questioning the decision to tell this story in this day-and-age, and the repercussions it may have…
This film is based on a story in which the character performs jauhar. The character doing so was convinced that it was an act of war. I feel it’s an empowering thought. She didn’t allow the enemy to win. It was a victory of dignity and honour. This is what transpired, and I can’t question her. In those days, when there was no solution, harakiri [method of suicide] was prevalent. I can’t question it. It is like asking why the Taj Mahal was made when the money spent in doing so could have been used for charity. Some will stand for it, some against it. And that is okay, because any work of art should be debated. But don’t oppose my authority to make what I want to, or to narrate it in a particular way. No one is compelled to agree with everything that I have said. As long as we agree disagree, and the work is thought provoking, it’s wonderful.

Have you fictonalised the poem Padmavat? According to the literature, it was Kumbhalne ruler Raja Devpal who kills Raja Rawal Ratan Singh [Shahid Kapoor]. But in the film, Ratan Singh becomes a victim of Malik Kafur [Jim Sarbh]…
That is why it’s an adaptation. When catering to a different medium, a story must be open to interpretation. One has to dramatically tweak narratives when keeping the audience in mind. You will sketch an image of Goddess Lakshmi a manner that is at odds with how I will. This poem was also interpreted differently over the years. A film called Padmini (1964) showed the queen in a different manner. In fact, it includes a scene which features rani Padmini walking towards Khilji’s tent and having a conversation with him. So, it is based on the poem. It’s not the poem itself. In my case, the basic story was adhered to. Padmavat is the only document available about the incident. History books are have chronicled it in a brief manner.

People argue that Alauddin Khilji wasn’t the barbaric ruler that he has been shown to be…
People say Ranveer’s [Singh] Alauddin has been shown as a dark character. For me, he is the most colourful of them all. He had a sharp mind and an obstinate heart. He was a great emperor, and the empire thrived under him. I haven’t enjoyed [showcasing] a character as much as I did this one. Art must be effortless and spontaneous. I would go on set and improvise. The scene where he throws ittar on a girl and then embraces her happened in the moment. I was enjoying myself. Ranveer is eccentric, and we brought his vivacious energy to Khilji.

Were you apprehensive about showcasing a mainstream hero as one that is bisexual?
It was documented. I asked Ranveer if he was comfortable with it and he agreed to do the role. We did not showcase it in a jarring manner. It was done with subtlety. Jim and he handled their act with delicateness and dignity. A lot was left for the viewer to gauge.

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Jan 252018
 

Sadly, Aditi Rao Hydari features in barely four scenes in Padmaavat

Aditi Rao Hydari
Aditi Rao Hydari

Aditi Rao Hydarifeatures in barely four scenes in Padmaavat. For a long time, the actor had been talking about bagging a role in Sanjay Leela Bhansali‘s film. She plays Allaudin Khilji’s (Ranveer Singh) wife Mehrunissa. The filmmaker had taken her on board on the recommendation of Jaya Bachchan who reportedly feels Aditi’s eyes are “deep, sad and expressive.” Sadly, she did not have much to do with Khilji roaring, much to the audience’s delight.

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Jan 182018
 

Sanjay Leela Bhansali breathes free as the Supreme Court clears release of the historical drama using the film Aarakshan as precedent; Bollywood veterans critique two-faced government

Deepika Padukone in Padmaavat
Deepika Padukone in Padmaavat

The Supreme Court this morning cleared Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s controversial period drama, Padmaavat, by suspending the ban orders of six states – Haryana, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Uttarakhand. A bench of the apex court comprising Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra and Justices AM Khanwilkar and DY Chandrachud considered the submission of the counsel of Viacom 18 and other producers of the film that the plea be heard urgently as the movie was set for all-India release on January 25.

The court said it is the duty of states to maintain law and order and that the creative content is an inseparable aspect of article 19 (1), freedom of speech and expression. CJI Dipak Misra said in his comments that the states can take a call in case violence erupts after release, but cannot preempt reaction or ban a film before release. The bench was hearing a writ petition filed by Agarwal Law Associates on behalf of Viacom 18 and Bhansali Productions, seeking the quashing of a ban on the release of the film.

Sanjay Leela Bhansali
Sanjay Leela Bhansali

The producers moved the top court through senior lawyer Harish Salve and advocate Mahesh Agarwal and submitted, in the petition, that the movie has undergone changes including in its title and the Ghoomar song as suggested by the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC). They cited the example of Prakash Jha’s controversial 2011 film, Aarakshan, which looked at caste reservation in education.

It was considered anti-Dalit and banned across several states, before the SC cleared its release. Using that as a precedent, the legal team argued that once the Censor Board has certified a movie, no state can ban it. Salve said, “If states are banning a film, then it [ban] is destroying [the] federal structure. It is a serious matter. If somebody has a problem, then he or she can approach the appellate tribunal for relief. [The] state can’t touch the content of a film.”

A source close to the production house told mid-day, “The Supreme Court has passed an order upholding the freedom of speech and directing the states to maintain law and order relying on Prakash Jha’s case of Aarakshan. This is another landmark case, where the Apex court has upheld freedom of speech and expression again, recognising that the state is duty bound to maintain law and order when the CBFC has certified a film. The principle laid down in the case of Aarakshan has been upheld.”

Jan 25
Day the film will finally release

– With inputs from Bharati Dubey, Sonil Dedhia and Mohar Basu

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Dec 302017
 

The Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) has decided to give a U/A certificate ‘along with some modifications’ to Sanjay Leela Bhansalis controversial film “Padmavati” and has asked the filmmaker to “likely” change the movies title to ‘Padmavat

Deepika Padukone in PadmavatiDeepika Padukone in the movie ‘Padmavati’

The Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) has decided to give a U/A certificate ‘along with some modifications’ to Sanjay Leela Bhansalis controversial film “Padmavati” and has asked the filmmaker to “likely” change the movies title to ‘Padmavat’. The film was also asked to give a few disclaimers — one of them regarding not glorifying the practice of Sati and also relevant modifications in the song “Ghoomar” to befit the character portrayed, a CBFC statement said.

The decision was taken after an examining committee meeting was held on Thursday in presence of CBFC chief Prasoon Joshi. The special panel consisted of Arvind Singh from Udaipur, Dr Chandramani Singh and professor K.K. Singh of Jaipur University.

According to the CBFC, the film was approached with a “balanced view keeping in mind both the filmmakers and the society”. The board asked for several cuts, and a name change, before giving the film the certification for showing in theatres in India. According to some reports, 26 cuts were ordered.

Considering the complexities and concerns around the film, the requirement for a special panel was felt by CBFC “to add perspective to the final decision of the official committee,” the CBFC said.

The final 3D application of the film was submitted to CBFC on Thursday (December 28).

The certificate will be issued once the required modifications are carried out and final material submitted, the board said.

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Dec 082017
 

padmaStating that a tourism-oriented state like Goa cannot afford law and order problems, Goa Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar on Thursday said he will “look into” the demand of the BJP state women’s wing to ban the screening of Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s film ‘Padmavati’.

Parrikar was speaking to reporters in Panaji after a delegation of the Goa Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)’s Mahila Morcha led by its president Sulakshana Sawant met him at his official residence to demand a ban on the film’s screening in Goa.

The delegation also claimed that it was portraying distorted history. “The other issue about this controversy is a law and order problem, which Goa can’t afford in the tourist season. A touristic state has to be peaceful. So we will look into both aspects of it.”

“As of now, the censor board’s certificate is not granted, so will take a call after it is granted…whether they take into consideration all these aspects and edit the film accordingly,” Parrikar told reporters after accepting the memorandum submitted by Sawant.

The Chief Minister also said the issues raised by the delegation, including wrong portrayal of queen ‘Padmavati’, was also justifiable. “This is the country’s history, where we believe that she committed ‘johar’ to protect herself. Anyway I will not go into what is there actually in the film. That is for the censor board to look into,” he said, complementing the Morcha’s members for raising a “right issue”.

“My personal opinion is straight that history should be portrayed correctly. If history is portrayed in a wrong way, then people’s sentiments might be hurt,” Parrikar said. In their memorandum, the Morcha’s members said the film “distorts history” and “wrongly links adored queen Padmavati with Muslim ruler Allaudin Khilji, who was an “aggressor”.

“It has been a habit of filmmakers to distort Hindi(u) icons and traditions in the guise of creativity. History has depicted ‘Padmavati’ as having committed johar to escape dishonour. Large sections of the Indian people adore queen Padmavati for her valour and chivalry,” the memorandum read. “The release of the controversial film is likely to hurt the sentiments of a large section of society creating unrest in peaceful Goa. The sentiments of women have also been hurt by the wrongful portrayal of queen Padmavati in poor light and association with Khilji is unacceptable,” it added.

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