'He has poured his blood, sweat and tears in Padmavati.'
'Now he has left the matter in the hands of his producers.'
Subhash K Jha reports.
Deferring Padmavati's release date was not a decision taken by its director Sanjay Leela Bhansali.
It was the producers who informed Bhansali that they would postpone the release date 'for a more suitable Friday in the next couple of months.'
'Okay,' Bhansali said, 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 was demanded by Bhansali. The fight has gone out of his spirit. He has poured his blood, sweat and tears in Padmavati. He is done now. Now he has left the matter in the hands of his capable producers Viacom 18 Motion Pictures," says an informed source.
Viacom's sudden announcement of postponing the film from its original release date of December 1 has stunned the Padmavati team.
What prompted Viacom to take this decision?
Apparently, the complete failure of attempts to pacify the protesters even after Bhansali recorded a video promising that there was nothing 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."
"The final straw was the 'special' screening of Padmavati for two television journalists," adds the source.
"On Friday (Noveber 17), 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 source revealed.
"Worst of all, 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 media persons before the CBFC," the source added.
In their defence, a source close to Padmavati's producers says the CBFC is not to blame for the delay.
"Prasoon Joshi is under pressure. It was very clear to Viacom 18 that they would not be allowed to release the film before the Gujarat election. Rather than wait for one more week and let the publicity costs escalate," the source says, "Viacom decided to pull the plug on the release without further delay."
"We are in no hurry to announce the new date. We will do so only after gauging the situation," says a Viacom source.
Meanwhile, the 68-day submission rule for all films that apply for a censor certificate has thrown the CBFC's functioning into a tizzy.
In a major turnaround, the rule has been relaxed after protests from producers who had release dates on hand, but no censor certificate.
Informs a CBFC source, "We have formed a separate queue for films that have already announced their release date and which would miss that date if we implement the 68-day period as per guidelines. We want to ensure that none of the films up for certification miss its release."
CBFC sources say close to 250 feature films, short films, advertisements, trailers, teasers and songs are waiting to be certified.
An angry producer, who has a release coming up this Friday, says the 68-day rule was implemented only to "hold back" Padmavati.
"The 68-day rule was there all along, but it was never implemented because everyone knows it is impossible for most producers to submit complete films 68 days in advance," the producer points out.
"Now, suddenly when Padmavati was due for release," the producer adds, "the CBFC decided it had to strictly implement the dormant rule."
"That meant all the releases this Friday -- including Kapil Sharma's Firangi, Sunny Leone's Tera Intezaar and Hollywood films Murder On The Orient Express, Coco, Thank You For Your Service -- would have had to be delayed, only so that Padmavati could be stopped on December 1."