Even as he refuses to react to actress Swara Bhasker’s open letter, condemning his depiction of jauhar in Padmaavat, filmmaker Sanjay Leela Bhansali takes the opportunity to address the ancient practice of self-immolation.
“Nowhere in the entire episode, showing these brave women perishing rather than succumbing to the invader’s advances, have I expressed my own approval of the practice of jauhar,” explains SLB. “In Satyajit Ray’s Devi, Sharmila Tagore’s character is seen as a victim of blind religious faith. It didn’t mean that Manikda (Ray) was endorsing blind faith.”
Bhansali dismisses the belief that he’s propagating jauhar in Padmaavat. “It’s like saying Ritwick Ghatak approved of tuberculosis in Meghe Dhaka Tara, simply because his heroine succumbed to it. Or that Hrishikesh Mukherjee endorsed cancer in Anand. It’s the story, it’s what happened. Why must a filmmaker be answerable to socio-political interpretations for every action and reaction in his cinema?” asks Bhansali.
The filmmaker has received a lot of responses to the jauhar sequence, he admits. “Not all positive, but that’s okay. A healthy debate is an essential part of every democracy. I’m glad that my film is giving people a reason to think out aloud,” he says.