Wary Maharashtra Government may not act in 'Bajirao Mastani' row

Despite asking for a probe into the controversy surrounding yet-to-release movie 'Bajirao Mastani', the BJP-led government is unlikely to take any firm action like asking the producer to delete scenes and songs. The state feels that it may face allegations of unwarranted censorship.

Also read: Shiv Sena MLA asks Maha Govt to stop release of 'Bajirao Mastani'

Sources in the government said that CM Devendra Fadnavis’ directives to officials for seeking information and act accordingly in the issue were routine. “Such directions are issued whenever a legislator petitions the CM. But the directions are taken seriously only when there is a specific directive from the CMO or ministers concerned,” said a senior official who is in the know of the matter.

Bajirao Mastani
Bajirao Mastani. Pic/Santa Banta

Legislators Pratap Sarnaik (Shiv Sena, Thane) and Medha Kulkarni (BJP, Pune) had demanded in the Legislative Assembly on Wednesday and Thursday that the controversial songs and scenes should be deleted from the movie before it is released next week.

Also read: How do we know Bajirao didn't dance, asks Priyanka Chopra

Following the demand, Fadnavis informed the house that a principal secretary level officer has been asked to probe into the issue. The CM had also noted on Sarnaik’s complaint letter that information should be sought and appropriate action taken.

However, many top officials in the government told mid-day that the matter would be tricky to decide and hence the government may not take any firm stand because it does not wish to court any further charges of undue censorship of media. Officials said that the Censor Board had already cleared the movie and even the Union government has maintained silence over the demands that were made by the descendants of Bajirao and Mastani.

“If the government intervenes and tells Bhansali to cut songs and scenes as demanded by the aggrieved parties, the people who advocate cinematic liberty and despise any sort of censorship from the government will not remain silent. There will be an unwarranted debate,” said a Mantralaya official, requesting anonymity.

Sena firm on its stand
mid-day had reported on the issue on December 10.

Following the movie’s lead actor Priyanka Chopra’s strong rebuttal to the Shiv Sena’s demands, the party said that it was firm on its demand for scrapping objectionable scenes in the movie.

Sena MLA Pratap Sarnaik told mid-day that his party did not wish to stall screening or attack cinema halls, because the producer has invested a lot of money in making the film. However, he expected Sanjay Leela Bhansali, the film’s producer and director, to meet his party’s demand.

Cinematic vision
Reacting to the Sena’s demand, Chopra had told mid-day on Wednesday that Bhansali was within his right to interpret a story the way he wants. She said that the movie was based on a fictional novel, and also raised a question as to how can anybody know now that Bajirao didn’t dance, smile or didn’t express happiness in his private life.

“We have to allow a director’s vision and imagination to portray what he thinks could have happened. We must just see it as nothing but the cinematic vision of an extraordinarily prolific filmmaker,” Chopra had told mid-day.

Sarnaik said that he and his colleague Kulkarni have used parliamentary methods to raise the issue.

“Now the state needs to act. The ball is in the government’s court. We still feel that any vulgarity in the film is not justified. It’s about the history of Maharashtra and Marathi people,” he said, reiterating that the Sena does not want the film to not release.

“What we want is simple and straight. Delete objectionable scenes and songs and release the movie,” Sarnaik said from Nagpur.

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