What’s in a name, you ask?
If that film is called Padmavati, then a mighty lot rides on its name.
Or so, seems to be the credo of the Central Board of Film Certification, which has asked the Padmavati makers for a title change, along with five modifications, for it to be released in the cinemas.
Padmavati, which was scheduled to release on December 1, was blocked amidst protests from Hindu and Rajput caste groups. The film, starring Deepika Padukone and Ranveer Singh, is the fictionalised account of 14th century Hindu queen (revered among Rajputs in real life) and a Muslim emperor, Alauddin Khilji. The protestors alleged that the Sanjay Leela Bhansali epic depicts intimate scenes between the two characters, a claim that has been repeatedly denied by its makers. But their denials fell on deaf ears. Now they have to drop the ‘I’ from Padmavati, call it Padmavat, for peace to return.
The Indian Censor Board’s instructions to change the title of a film spells the beginning of scary times for Bollywood.
Dropping the letter ‘I’ from Padmavati may become symbolic of ‘I’ being eroded from the identity of Hindi filmmakers. This episode has taught us that Bollywood talents are soft targets and that they can be held to ransom at any given point of time.
The row — which included Padukone getting death threats — will make filmmakers, distributors and studios hesitate to back projects that have narratives that could be deemed sensitive in India.
Any director, before embarking on a glossy musical or a thriller, might have to make peace with the fact that his narrative will and can offend and he may have to alter his voice to suit the opposing voices. Tweaking titles is just the beginning, don’t be surprised if the Indian Censor Board now will instruct directors to alter endings and the DNA of a film.
So gear up for a flurry of sanitised films that leave no space for dialogue or debates.