Deferring the release date of Padmavati—and a new date is not yet decided, so don’t let know-all websites and portals fool you—was not a decision taken by filmmaker Sanjay Leela Bhansali.
It was the producers who decided to inform Bhansali that they had decided to postpone the release date “for a more suitable Friday in the next couple of months.” SLB said, ‘Ok,’ and disconnected the phone. For him the battle to get into the theatres on schedule, and thereby not succumb to fringe bullying, had just ended.
“No explanation was given, none demanded by SLB. The fight has gone out of his spirit. He has poured his blood sweat and tears in 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.
What prompted Viacom to take this hasty decision? Apparently the complete failure of attempts to pacify the protesters even after SLB recorded a video vowing there was nothing even remotely slanderous in his film, had begun to worry Viacom. Says a source, “The concern was not just restricted to the Indian bosses at Viacom. It went all the way to the headquarters in the US.”
Apparently the command to defer release came from the headquarters after all attempts to assuage suspicion about the Padmavati content failed. Says the source, “The final straw was the ‘special’ screening of Padmavati for two television journalists (Arnab Goswami, Rajat Shama). On Friday Shobha Sant the CEO of Bhansali Production flew to Delhi to screen Padmavati for Arnab Goswami and Rajat Sharma. The protestors wouldn’t buy Arnab’s braggadocio. His taunting ‘I’ve-seen-THEFILM-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.”
In their defence a source close to the Padmavati producers source 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, ordered by the high command, decided to pull the plug on the release without further delay.”
The fresh release date won’t happen 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 source.
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