Mumbai: The film industry is in no mood to compromise on its “creative freedom” and fascination towards history, even as the controversy around Padmaavat is far from over.
The Sanjay Leela Bhansali-directed film, which was originally titled Padmavati, got mired in controversy as soon as the filmmaker started shooting for the project and things took an ugly turn after the first trailer of the movie was released last year.
The unending protests, however, have not affected Bollywood, with celebs such as Ketan Mehta, Sidharth Malhotra and R Madhavan still vouching for period dramas.
“History is a treasure house of stories. We cannot preclude history from creative endeavours. I would like to make a historical film even today,” Mehta said.
The director, who helmed Aamir Khan-starrer 2005 historical biographical drama Mangal Pandey: The Rising and 1993 biographical drama Sardar on Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, said considering the wrath Bhansali and his team faced, he will be cautious while making any historical film in future.
“There would be various opinions on any subject. There is no question of censoring yourself even before you start creating something,” he added.
Mehta believes people have become oversensitive today and they need to “liberate their mind” as freedom of expression is a fundamental right.
“People have a right to see a film, just like they have a right to vote. There is a censor board that looks into the matter of clearing films and its sanctity should be retained,” he said.
Producer Kamal Jain, whose next film Manikarnika: The Queen of Jhansi featuring Kangana Ranaut in the title role, is based on the life of Rani Laxmi Bai of Jhansi, said cinema has an unparalleled capacity to bring history to life.
“We have a long, respectable history and cinema is the biggest medium to bring it to the people.”
Jain added that while making a historical film, makers should do thorough research and stay true to the subject and even if they take cinematic liberties, they should ensure sentiments of people are not hurt.
“History has to be thoroughly researched. I spent almost six months on research and got a lot of historians on board who authenticated the film.
“You need to look at the perspective. You need to respect the sentiments of the people because at the end of the day cinema will affect somebody’s sentiments,” he said.
Actor Sonu Sood, who played the character of Rajkumar Sujamal in Ashutosh Gowariker-directed Jodhaa Akbar, said chances of a historical drama facing protests are always high, but that should not stop artists from doing their jobs.
“In today’s times when we try to make historical films we have to make sure that all the references are right. But, even after that one can face opposition like we have seen in the case of Padmaavat,” he said.
The actor, who will now be seen playing a warrior in Manikarnika…, said working in a period drama is “a great high for an actor”.
“We might find ourselves in a situation where people are opposing it but ultimately periodical films are the ones which need to be made in today’s times,” he added.
Sidharth shared similar views and said getting “scared” by the situation will only “defeat the purpose of why we are in the business.”
The actor said people should not take movies too seriously as it is a form of entertainment and does not aim at starting a revolution.
“… Even though the films that we make (on history), we are not trying to change history. It is unfortunate that a film like Padmaavat has to go through this.
“The threats were uncalled for, we all felt angry when Bhansali and the actors received death threats. It is sad that something like this can happen openly,” he added.
Madhavan and Nimrat Kaur also expressed their desire to explore the genre.
“I don’t think actors should be bound by politics in any way. The idea of being an actor and artiste is that you are a reflection of society and world and you bring forth stories to entertain the audience,” Nimrat said.
Madhavan believes it is still safe to do a period or historical film.
“I don’t think people should get threatened. With what has happened (to Padmaavat)… It is not right. It should not happen and is not acceptable,” he said.
Featuring Deepika Padukone, Shahid Kapoor, and Ranveer Singh, Padmaavat will hit the theatres on 25 January.