Thursday, January 25, was D-day for Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Padmaavat and the cine goers in most parts of the country ensured that despite the turmoil surrounding the film, the show must go on, quite literally. A day after the violent protests across the northern states including a school bus being attacked in Gurugram, fans swarmed to the theatres to watch the Deepika Padukone, Shahid Kapoor and Ranveer Singh starrer. The actress, so overwhelmed by the nation’s response, took to social media to share her gratitude to the audience
The initial reports suggest the film is witnessing a positive opening business-wise. Nonetheless, security has been beefed up at the malls, multiplexes and single screen halls but no major incident was reported. While stray incidents of violence have been reported in part of the country, the film largely ran without trouble. However, despite the Supreme Court order to screen the film in the state, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat did not follow the mandate. The Supreme Court has agreed to hear two pleas seeking disapproval action against four state governments and Shree Rashtriya Rajput Karni Sena for violating its order.
In Varanasi, a man attempted to immolate himself outside a mall but was stopped from doing so. Uttar Pradesh was on high alert after a fringe group on Wednesday announced a bounty for Deepika Padukone’s nose. UP’s Additional Director General (Law and Order) Anand Kumar said in a statement to PTI, “Enough police force should be kept in reserve so it can be deployed when needed. Local intelligence units should also be alerted to keep an eye of unscrupulous elements so that effective timely action is taken.”
Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh saw violent protests with roads being blocked, shops vandalised and bike rallies taken out in parts of Rajasthan even after the film was not screened in these states. The region’s Karni Sena president Mahipal Makrana said, “Our protest against the film is continuing. The Rajput Karni Sena took out a bike rally in Jaipur and similar protests took place in other areas also.” About two dozen shops were damaged in stone-pelting incidents in Udaipur. In Gurgaon, schools were closed following yesterday’s violence and tension persisted but many multiplexes went ahead and screened the film.
The bandh called by the Karni Sena in Gujarat evoked a tepid response with educational institutions, offices and markets open in most parts of the state. As a precautionary measure, the Gujarat State Road Transport Corporation (GSRTC) suspended bus services from Ahmedabad to Mehsana and Banaskantha, an official said. Ahmedabad Divisional Controller AK Parmar said, "We will resume services on these routes after assessing the situation. The buses on all other routes are running as per schedule."
Late on Thursday, Haryana BJP media coordinator Suraj Pal Amu was put under house arrest in Gurugram even as the movie was screened peacefully in 33 cinema halls of Haryana’s nine districts. Haryana DGP BS Sandhu said, “He was not allowed to go to the MG Road (Gurugram) on Thursday.” Amu, stoked a controversy in November last year for allegedly “offering a prize of Rs 10 crore to anyone who would behead Padmaavat director Sanjay Leela Bhansali and the film’s female lead Deepika Padukone”.
The film’s producers Viacom 18 Motion Pictures on Thursday said that a whopping one million people saw the film on its first day. A spokesperson said in a statement to PTI, “We are humbled by the response we have received for Padmaavat. Over 1 million Indians have already watched the film and occupancy levels for shows are very strong across more than 4000 screens with most running house-full. The feedback for the film has been overwhelming.”
The producers of Padmaavat added, “We are hopeful that every Indian across all states will get a chance to see the film especially as we celebrate our great nation’s 69th Republic Day.” In Delhi, the occupancy was around 60 to 70% for first show at 9 am but in Mumbai it was at 40-45%. “The response has been positive so far. We are hopeful it will increase during the day and in the evening,” Mumbai-based Nitin Datar, who is a member of the Cinema Owners and Exhibitors Association of India, told PTI.
In his Republic Day eve address to the nation, President Kovind touched upon this issue saying, "A civic-minded nation is built by civic-minded neighbourhoods, whether in our cities or our villages. Where we respect the next-door persons space, privacy and rights. Where we do not inconvenience our neighbours while celebrating a festival or while resorting to a protest or on any other occasion. Where one can disagree with another viewpoint or even with a historical context without mocking a fellow citizen’s dignity and personal space. This is fraternity in action."
While there are protests in several regions in the country, Padmaavat’s long awaited release is finally here. The film which was to originally release on December 1 was pushed to Thursday after protests from the Karni Sena and subsequent modifications by the CBFC. Day 1 received a moderate response but given the buzz the film has created over the last few months, the footfall in theatres is only expected to increase.