Deferring the release date of Padmavati, without announcing a fresh date, was not a decision taken by filmmaker Sanjay Leela Bhansali.
It was the producers of Padmavati who decided to inform Bhansali that they had decided to postpone the release of the film “for a more suitable Friday in the next couple of months”. Sanjay Leela Bhansali said , ‘Ok,’ and disconnected the phone.
For the filmmaker, the battle to get into the theatres on schedule, and thereby not succumb to the fringe bullying, had just ended.
“No explanation was given, none demanded by Sanjay Leela Bhansali. The fight has gone out of his spirit. He has poured his blood, sweat and tears into Padmavati. He is now done. Now he has left the matter in the hands of his very capable producers Viacom 18 Motion Pictures,” says an informed source.
Viacom 18’s sudden announcement on Sunday, about postponing Padmavati’s 1 December release has surprised the film’s entire team.
So, what prompted Viacom 18 to take this hasty decision?
Apparently, the complete failure of attempts to pacify the protesters even after Bhansali recorded a video vowing there was nothing even remotely slanderous in his film had begun to worry Viacom 18.
Says a source, “The concern was not just restricted to the Indian bosses at Viacom 18. It went all the way to the headquarters in the US.”
According to a source, the command to defer the release came after all attempts to assuage suspicion about the content of Padmavati failed.
Says the source, “The final straw was the ‘special’ screening of Padmavati for two television journalists (Arnab Goswami and Rajat Sharma). On Friday, Shobha Sant, the CEO of Bhansali Productions flew to Delhi to screen Padmavati for Arnab Goswami and Rajat Sharma. What was meant to be a move to influence public opinion in favour of the film turned out to be a futile PR exercise.
The protestors wouldn’t buy Arnab’s verdict on the film. His taunting “I’ve-seen-THE FILM-you-haven’t” approach simply backfired. Worse of all, the CBFC chairperson, Prasoon Joshi, turned his face away from the glare of the controversy, berating the Padmavati team for jumping the gun and showing the film to key media persons before the CBFC”.
Joshi probably expected Bhansali to approach him directly. This didn’t happen.
In their defence a source close to the Padmavati producers says the CBFC is not to blame for the delay. “Prasoon Joshi is clearly under pressure. It was very clear to Viacom 18 that they would not be allowed to release the film before the Gujarat elections. Rather than wait for one more week and let the publicity costs escalate, Viacom 18, ordered by the high command, decided to pull the plug on the release without further delay.”
The fresh release date won’t be announced in a hurry.
“We are in no hurry to announce the new date, we will do so only after gauging the situation,” says a Viacom 18 source.