Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s period saga Padmavat (earlier Padmavati) has clearly dealt with more than its share of controversy but the film finally has a release date. The Ranveer Singh, Deepika Padukone and Shahid Kapoor-starrer will arrive in theaters on 25 January for the extended Republic Day weekend, a spokesperson from Viacom18 Motion Pictures, co-producer of Padmavat, said on condition of anonymity.
In November last year, the studio had voluntarily deferred the December release of the film as protests on its historical accuracy continued across the country.
“We’re looking to have an official announcement ideally later this week. The first thing was to put a release date out, we will now begin the marketing,” the person said.
The Republic Day weekend was a release window floating around for quite some time. While trade experts had ruled out that possibility until last week given that both Akshay Kumar’s Padman and Neeraj Pandey-directed Aiyaary were scheduled for release then, the speculation had become stronger lately.
“The point is whether the producers will be adequately prepared to meet the 25th release date because the India release will be accompanied by an overseas release,” said film trade and exhibition expert Girish Johar. Out of the 5,500-odd workable screens in the country, Johar said Padman would have already blocked at least 1,500. This means Padmavat, which would have ideally got about 3,000-4,000 screens, will now get around 2,500 at the most.
Further, convincing individual state governments that have declared a ban on the film is an issue. Five states—Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar—have banned the film for now and Johar said they are all critical markets. To be sure, despite a clearance by the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC), a state is authorized to disallow the screening of a particular film. In the past, for instance, Aamir Khan’s Fanaa (2006) was banned in Gujarat after the actor took a stand on the Narmada Bachao Andolan issue.
Meanwhile, the Rajput Karni Sena has stuck to its demand for a complete ban on the film that it believes distorts historical facts and hurts the community’s sentiments. It has rejected the compromise that the censor board and the makers of Padmavat makers have arrived at, including a change in the title before agreeing to a U/A certificate. Other modifications include two disclaimers, one in the beginning and the other after the interval, a first for an Indian film, changes in the Ghoomar song featuring Padukone and removal of misleading references to historical places.
“This is the first time that the CBFC (Central Board of Film Certification) has been made to work under so much pressure and hire independent panelists besides its 200 members to view a film,” said a CBFC member, on the condition of anonymity. “Fringe elements should not disrupt the shows now, at least without watching the film.”
The person added that the Padmavat team was unlikely to wait much longer for theatrical release after the changes are incorporated, given the financial stakes involved. Atul Mohan, editor of trade magazine Complete Cinema, said that the year’s busy film schedule starts this weekend. The 12th weekend is booked by Anurag Kashyap’s Mukkabaaz and Saif Ali Khan-starrer Kaalakaandi. While the Padman team has confirmed theatrical release on the 25, Aiyaary has reportedly been shifted to 9 February.
Meanwhile the Padmavat team itself wants some time to market the film in a positive light and put out non-controversial communication.
“Given what the film has gone through, we have to be very cautious now,” the Viacom18 spokesperson said.