Sanjay Leela Bhansali's film Padmavati has been attacked once again. This time, the film set was torched and almost reduced to ashes with the use of petrol bombs. In the early hours of Wednesday a group of two dozen men wearing masks indulged in this act of vandalism at Kohlapur. In January, director Bhansali was assaulted by the Rajput outfit Karni Sena while filming at the Nahargarh Fort at Jaipur. The film production was allegedly shifted out of Rajasthan following the attack.
The incident is said to have occured at the set spread over 50,000 sq. ft. at the picturesque Masai Pathar, 10 kilometres from Panhala. Props and costumes were burned down, but crew members were not injured. This entire incident wrapped up within 15 minutes, but the loss could cost the filmmakers approximately Rs. 4 crores, say the members of the crew. It has also been reported that since the fire brigade could not reach the disaster site quickly, nearby villagers helped douse the flames and moved the people and animals from the set avoiding casualties.
Reacting once again to the attack on Padmavati, filmmaker Karan Johar said that he hopes "steps are taken to prevent such incidents" at the launch of the trailor of Baahubali 2: The Conclusion on Thursday. SS Rajamouli, who is presenting the Hindi version of the film, said at the same venue, "Freedom of speech is a fundamental right of the people of this country and any artiste, any filmmaker should be able to express his views".
Both Karan Johar and Rajamouli have raised reasonable concerns. However, had Bollywood demanded immediate punishment of Karni Sena members after Bhansali was manhandled in January, the two dozen men who vandalised the film set would have thought twice before going on rampage. Bollywood stars like Deepika Padukone, Ranvir Singh and Shahid Kappor pleaded innocent. They claimed they didn't want to hurt the sentiments of Rajputs and played the sympathy card in January.
Karni Sena has welcomed this crude act of vandalism and has also stated that if wrong facts continue to be presented, the protests will continue. Karni Sena had earlier claimed that the film was distorting the history of their Godess Padmini. They reasoned out the attack on Bhansali by stating that he was portraying a romantic sequence between 14th century emperor Alauddin Khilji (played by Ranvir Singh) and Rani Padmini (played by Deepika Padukone).
Instead of demanding strict action against the members of Karni Sena after he was attacked the first time, Bhansali went onto have an agreement with the criminals. He bowed down to their demands of "no intimate scenes in Padmavati", "no distortion of history" (more like "no distortion of Karni Sena "story"") and "the name Padmavati to be changed". Will Bhansali have more negotiations with the outfit that torched his set?
Luckily there was no casualty of life. But there were several horses and few camels in the set, and one horse is said to have been injured. Can we rely on luck every time? The attackers and Karni Sena spokespersons who legitimise violence should be punished, otherwise such instances will continue to grow, as the cultural space for violence seems to be ripe at present.