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As protests against Sanjay Leela Bhansali's upcoming Padmavati continue to hinder its release, a large number of members of the film and entertainment industry gathered at Mumbai's Film City on Sunday to express their support by halting all shootings for 15 minutes.
They questioned the status of freedom of speech and expression in India's democracy when a caste group like the Karni Sena could constantly threaten the filmmakers and travel nationwide to stop its release.
Addressing the protesters and media, Ashoke Pandit of the Indian Films and TV Directors' Association (IFTDA) said: "We, all the members of the film industry, are sensible enough to portray our history and culture in a sensible way; and it is the basic right to all the citizen of a democratic country to express thoughts freely. How could some non-constitutional bodies threaten to behead a filmmaker and cut the nose of an actress? Is this even democracy?"
"Even we want to see how they could show such audacity! Such threats crate questions on the livelihood of those junior artistes, carpenters, lightmen among many others who work on the set of big films like 'Padmavati'. Therefore I would like to urge the government to step in to control the situation and protect our right to freedom."
More than 1000 representatives of all the #FilmBodies got together at #FilmCity to show their solidarity towards @FilmPadmavati, #SanjayLeelaBhansali & all those filmmakers who have been attacked earlier. A successful protest. pic.twitter.com/1BRxaAdyzB— Ashoke Pandit (@ashokepandit) November 26, 2017
In Mumbai, around 1,000 people from the industry took part in the protest. The Indian Motion Picture Producers Association (IMPPA), Western India Cinematographers Association, Screen Writers Association, The Film and Television Producers Guild of India Limited, the Association of Voice Artistes, Cine Costume & Make-up Artiste and Hair Dressers Association, Cine Singer Association and Movie Stunt Artistes Association all protested.
Himanshu Bhatt, Secretary of Association of Voice Artistes, said: "I know Sanjay for years now, because we started working together as professionals from his debut film Khamoshi and continued working till Devdas. Surely I know his artistic sensibilities better than people who are protesting against Padmavati... who did not even watch a single frame of the film."
"I don't believe he would project any character or culture in such an insensitive manner to hurt anyone. We have the CBFC to decide what film is suitable for public view. Those groups (like Karni Sena) cannot just attack our basic right to freedom of expression. Let the film release and the criticise or appreciate in a civilised manner," he added.
Veteran actor Pawan Malhotra, who was also present, said the situation was alarming for the nation, going beyond the film's release. "The way a series of incidents regarding the release of Padmavati is happening is worrisome because we are living in a country where our freedom of expression is controlled by a group of people."
"They decide all the norms - what to wear, what to eat, how to celebrate a festival, what are the subject a filmmaker can film on ... the list is never ending! I ask them, Why? How come they overpower the right of the CBFC to decide on a film? How come they overpower the Constitution of India to decide on our basic right to freedom?"
A lot of celebrities from Bollywood and other film industries have also slammed the string of protests that the team of 'Padmavati' has been facing.
Acclaimed director Shekhar Kapur on Sunday questioned the 'censoring' of Sanjay Leela Bhansali's Padmavati, while arguing that while Bhansali was a good filmmaker, he had never made political films.
"I know the filmmaker, I know the film and you know the film. The intention of the filmmaker was not to create controversy. He is a great filmmaker, but he has never been a political filmmaker," he said at a Masterclass on the sidelines of the ongoing 48th International Film Festival of India.
Actor-filmmaker Nandita Das on Sunday said demanding a ban on Sanjay Leela Bhansali's magnum opus Padmavati only reinforces the fact that art is powerful.
The 48-year-old director said suppressing an artiste's expression reflects that somewhere the work of art is challenging a certain thought process.
"Art doesn't create revolutions, it subliminally goes into our subconscious - the good and the bad. And because people want to ban (Padmavati) that you realise the power of art...
"It must threaten a certain way of seeing. (And) till we see multiple points of view on anything how are we going to make an informed choice?" Nandita said.
"This is what happens when violent threats are allowed to made openly without punishment! What is happening? Shocked!" noted Bhatt.
"Padmavati" has been in the line of fire with various Rajput groups and political leaders accusing the director of "distorting historical facts", with protests across the country calling for a ban.
This is what happens when violent threats are allowed to made openly without punishment! What is happening? Shocked! https://t.co/hZw2EXyuij— Alia Bhatt (@aliaa08) November 24, 2017
The Supreme Court has refused to interfere with the release of "Padmavati".
Chief ministers of BJP-ruled states such as Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan have called for a ban on the movie.
Commenting on the same, Pandit said, "We are not fighting against any particular person. The judiciary has passed some orders but nothing has been done. How can a chief minister ban a film without even watching it?"
Featuring Deepika Padukone, Shahid Kapoor and Ranveer Singh, Padmavati was set to be released on December 1.