Bollywood controversy

The attack on ‘Padmavati’ in Rajasthan proves that when in the line of fire, step out of harm’s way

Line producers who facilitate movie shoots in the state advise caution over bravado – even when the filmmaker is in the right.

In 1996, Mira Nair went to Rajasthan to shoot the erotic romance Kama Sutra: A Tale of Love . The movie’s explicit lovemaking scenes had the potential of upsetting the locals at the location, so the shoot took place under another title. There were protests against Kama Sutra in the state, but only after its release.

Could subterfuge have similarly saved Sanjay Leela Bhansali from being assaulted on the sets of his upcoming movie Padmavati at Jaigarh Fort near Jaipur? The attack on the National Award-winning filmmaker by members of the caste-based organisation Rajput Karni Sena on January 27 forced the crew to cancel the shoot and return to Mumbai. Bhansali has already canned portions of Padmavati at studio lots in Mumbai, and he needs to finish his outdoor sections if he has to release the movie on November 17 as scheduled.

The attack has rattled the community of line producers in Rajasthan who facilitate shoots of Indian and foreign productions by negotiating permissions and providing logistical assistance. The Rajput Karni Sena’s actions indicate that producers should not rush in where line producers fear to tread. “We often deal with tough situations but what happened at Padmavati’s sets is rather unusual,” said Tan Singh, one of Rajasthan’s leading line producers.

Would the attack have taken place if Bhansali had sneaked into the city with his star cast (including Deepika Padukone, Shahid Kapoor and Ranveer Singh) unannounced? Anonymity is nearly impossible in an age of non-stop scrutiny and easy access to information, but if a film unit wants to fly under the radar, it can, said Surender Kumar Kalra, who had worked on Kama Sutra as well as Priyadarshan’s Bhool Bhulaiya in 2006. The movie was shot over 85 days in Jaipur. “They finished the entire shoot under the name ‘Project 5’” Kalra said. “Shooting without a title is possible and that can be tactfully used to avoid uncalled for situations.”

Kama Sutra: A Tale of Love.
Kama Sutra: A Tale of Love.

Rajasthan is one of the most featured states in Indian and international films, music videos and commercials. Filmmakers flock to Rajasthan state for its beauty, heritage sites, colourful music, dance and craft traditions, and ease of acquiring shooting permissions. An army of local line producers with varying degrees of competence makes these shoots possible, and their negotiation skills come into play if a production runs into a controversy on location.

“Any shoot requires permission at two levels – authorities and local,” Surender Kumar Kalra said. “The former has always been quite hassle-free in Rajasthan and in case of local issues, if things do not work out, the ideal thing is to scout for an alternative location that can accommodate the concerned scenes.”

When country-wide protests against Pakistani artistes were at its peak in September 2016, a Norwegian filmmaker of Pakistani origin was scheduled to shoot in Udaipur and Ajmer. Her scripts had been cleared by the local authorities, but the shoot was temporarily jeopardised by surgical strikes on training camps across the border following the attack on an Army camp in Uri. “During negotiations with the local village representatives, I remember convincing each one of them that there is nothing Pakistani about the filmmaker except for the place of her birth,” Tan Singh said. “To some, I even had to show her passport. Finally, they agreed and a potentially hostile situation was averted.”

Meenaxi: Tale of 3 Cities.
Meenaxi: Tale of 3 Cities.

Negotiation during a shoot does not guarantee a smooth release. Before attacking Padmavati, the Rajput Karni Sena had trained its guns on Ashutosh Gowariker’s Jodha Akbar in 2008. Although Gowariker managed to shoot in Rajasthan by holding discussions with the protestors, Jodhaa Akbar continued to face problems after its release in the form of demonstrations, the tearing and burning of posters and even the forcible shutdown of theatres in some places.

In the case of Padmavati, the Rajput Karni Sena was outraged at rumours of a dream sequence between the characters of Rani Padmavati and Allauddin Khilji. But in the case of Meenaxi: Tale of 3 Cities, the director’s name was enough to incite the mobs. The 2006 title was by Maqbool Fida Husain, a favoured target of Hindutva groups. “There were long shoot schedules in Jaisalmer, but locals started objecting when they came to know that the film was being directed by MF Hussain, who was already in controversy back then,” Tan Singh said. “It was tough to convince the villagers, who vehemently objected to shooting in the village, and it did take some time but we managed.”

Discussion and persuasion also ensured a smooth run for Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra’s Delhi 6 which, although set in the capital, was mostly filmed at Sambar in Jaipur. “Delhi 6 dealt with sensitive communal subjects and the Sambar locality has a large number of residents from both Hindu and Muslim communities,” Kalra said. “Objection from any one group could have stopped the project, and it was a 75-day schedule. We remember having a series of meetings with members of both communities and in the end, it worked in our favour.”

At times, even the most trivial incident can ruffle feathers. During the shoot of Prawal Raman’s biopic on Charles Sobhraj, Main Aur Charles, in 2013, the assistant director and other crew members were roughed up by a police official in Udaipur after they accidentally stopped a Superintendent of Police’s vehicle, recalled line producer Mukesh Madhwani. “The matter turned so serious that some politicians got involved, and a few senior officials were transferred,” Madhwani said. “However, what happened in Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s case is strange. You have to talk to the parties objecting to the project. If you fail to reach a settlement even after that, you should consider changing the location to minimise losses.”

Delhi 6.
Delhi 6.

There was little room for negotiation for Bhansali and his co-producer, Viacom18 Motion Pictures, in the case of Padmavati. The Rajput Karni Sena has objected not only to the dream sequence – which isn’t there in the movie, according to a statement by Bhansali – but the very premise of the script.

One of two mistakes Bhansali made was to insist, as would have any respectable filmmaker, that he wanted to shoot portions of the film in the state where the story plays out. Both Sanjay Leela Bhansali Films and Viacom18 Motion Pictures declined to speak to for this story.

“This case is unusual because the concerned scene to which the Rajput group objected was not being filmed at the location where the incident happened – the actual problem was with the script,” said line producer Gyanendra Singh Rathore, who has worked on several Yash Raj Films productions and NH10 (2015). “There is nothing much the line producer can do in this case. Whether that will deter filmmakers can’t be said, because filmmakers often arrive here with good research. If a shoot demands Rajasthan locations, it has to be done here.” Rajesh Sharma, Director, Rajasthan Tourism, declined comment when contacted.

Bhansali’s second mistake was to assume that he had the right to shoot in a state touted as one of the friendliest places in the country for film crews. The production unit had a green signal from the authorities, but by ignoring the red flags waved by vigilante groups, Bhansali has paid a huge price. The Rajasthan government, led by Bharatiya Janata Party leader Vasundhara Raje Scindia, has neither condemned the incident nor arrested the attackers, compelling Bhansali to announce that he will screen portions of the completed film to the Rajput Karni Sena to guard against future attacks. When in the line of fire, it’s best to step out of harm’s way than fight it out.

We welcome your comments at
Sponsored Content  BY 

Harvard Business School’s HBX brings the future of business education to India with online programs

HBX is not only offering courses online, but also connecting students to the power of its network.

The classic design of the physical Harvard Business School (HBS) classroom was once a big innovation – precisely designed teaching amphitheaters laid out for every student to participate from his or her seat with a “pit” in the center of the room from which professors orchestrate discussions analyzing business cases like a symphony lead. When it came to designing the online experience of HBX—the school’s digital learning initiative—HBS faculty worked tirelessly to blend these tenets of the HBS classroom pedagogy with the power of new technology. With real-world problem solving, active learning, and social learning as its foundation, HBX offers immersive and challenging self-paced learning experiences through its interactive online learning platform.

Reimagining digital education, breaking the virtual learning mold

Typically, online courses follow a one-way broadcast mode – lectures are video recorded and reading material is shared – and students learn alone and are individually tested. Moving away from the passive learning model, HBX has developed an online platform that leverages the HBS ‘case-based pedagogy’ and audio-visual and interaction tools to make learning engaging.

HBX courses are rarely taught through theory. Instead, students learn through real-world problem-solving. Students start by grappling with a business problem – with real world data and the complexity in which a business leader would have to make a decision – and learn the theory inductively. Thus even as mathematical theories are applied to business situations, students come away with a greater sense of clarity and perspective, whether it is reading a financial report, understanding why a brand’s approach to a random sample population study may or may not work, or how pricing works.

HBX Platform | Courses offered in the HBX CORe program
HBX Platform | Courses offered in the HBX CORe program

“Learning about concepts through real-life cases was my favorite part of the program. The cases really helped transform abstract concepts into observable situations one could learn from. Furthermore, it really helped me understand how to identify situations in which I could use the tools that HBX equipped me with,” says Anindita Ravikumar, a past HBX participant. India’s premier B-school IIM-Ahmedabad has borrowed the very same pedagogy from Harvard. Learning in this manner is far more engaging, relatable, and memorable.

Most lessons start with a short 2-3 minute video of a manager talking about the business problem at hand. Students are then asked to respond on how they would handle the issue. Questions can be in the form of either a poll or reflections. Everyone’s answers are then visible to the ‘classroom’. In the words of Professor Bharat Anand, Faculty Chair, HBX, “This turns out to be a really important distinction. The answers are being updated in real-time. You can see the distribution of answers, but you can also see what any other individual has answered, which means that you’re not anonymous.” Students have real profiles and get to know their ‘classmates’ and learn from each other.

HBX Interface | Students can view profiles of other students in their cohort
HBX Interface | Students can view profiles of other students in their cohort

Professor Anand also says, “We have what we call the three-minute rule. Roughly every three minutes, you are doing something different on the platform. Everyone is on the edge of their seats. Anyone could be called on to participate at any time. It’s a very lean forward mode of learning”. Students get ‘cold-called’ – a concept borrowed from the classroom – where every now and then individuals will be unexpectedly prompted to answer a question on the platform and their response will be shared with other members of the cohort. It keeps students engaged and encourages preparedness. While HBX courses are self-paced, participants are encouraged to get through a certain amount of content each week, which helps keep the cohort together and enables the social elements of the learning experience.

More than digital learning

The HBS campus experience is valued by alumni not just for the academic experience but also for the diverse network of peers they meet. HBX programs similarly encourage student interactions and opportunities for in-person networking. All HBXers who successfully complete their programs and are awarded a credential or certificate from HBX and Harvard Business School are invited to the annual on-campus HBX ConneXt event to meet peers from around the world, hear from faculty and business executives, and also experience the HBS campus near Cambridge.

HBXers at ConneXt, with Prof. Bharat Anand
HBXers at ConneXt, with Prof. Bharat Anand

Programs offered today

HBX offers a range of programs that appeal to different audiences.

To help college students and recent graduates prepare for the business world, HBX CORe (Credential of Readiness) integrates business essentials such as analytics, economics, and financial accounting. HBX CORe is also great for those interested in an MBA looking to strengthen their application and brush up their skills to be prepared for day one. For working professionals, HBX CORe and additional courses like Disruptive Strategy, Leading with Finance, and Negotiation Mastery, can help deepen understanding of essential business concepts in order to add value to their organizations and advance their careers.

Course durations range from 6 to 17 weeks depending on the program. All interested candidates must submit a free, 10-15 minute application that is reviewed by the HBX admissions team by the deadlines noted on the HBX website.

For more information, please review the HBX website.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of HBX and not by the Scroll editorial team.