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Will He Make It on Time?

Rajeev Masand is entertainment editor at CNN News18
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A Fair Taskmaster | As Good as It Gets

Even as the political row over Padmavati rages on, the film’s director Sanjay Leela Bhansali is reportedly racing against the clock to ensure that he meets its December 1st release date. Insiders say that although Viacom18, co-producer of the film, unveiled a 3D trailer recently, the 3D conversion process is a long and cumbersome one and is unlikely to be done in time. They’re estimating that 3D prints of Padmavati could be released a week or two after its general theatrical release. Good luck getting screens then. Let’s not forget Star Wars: The Last Jedi releases on December 15th, and Tiger Zinda Hai the week after.

Nevertheless, the team of Padmavati is focused on completing the film without any hitches now. Even as VFX and post-production is currently underway, Bhansali screened a work-in-progress line-up of the basic edit for studio execs earlier this week in order to arrive at a strategy for tackling the never-ending controversies. This is a big step for the filmmaker, who famously shrouds his films in secrecy until days—and in the case of Saawariya, hours—before its release.

In the wake of that film’s abysmal failure, sources within Sony Pictures India (which bankrolled the project) revealed that Saawariya was not screened even for top bosses at the studio until the night before its premiere. Rishi Kapoor, whose son Ranbir made his debut in the film seven years ago, has gone on to blast Bhansali for guarding the film “as if it were some scientific formula for making a nuclear bomb”. The senior star says that Bhansali screened the film for the Kapoors only two days before its premiere “by which time it was too late for us to point out the problems with it”.

A Fair Taskmaster

Bhansali may have his share of detractors, and he’s certainly rubbed some people the wrong way—Ranbir is believed to have vowed never to work with him again—but the Padmavati cast is standing firmly by his side as political parties threaten to ban the film. Not that he hasn’t been hard on them. Eyewitnesses from the set reveal that the director did not mince words when he was unhappy with their performance. Huddled near the video assist, he would bellow, “Kya goo hai!” (what crap this is), into the microphone whenever he felt Ranveer Singh hadn’t given the scene his best. On other occasions, he would sarcastically announce: “Chhod de. Leave it. Let’s just all go home. You’re obviously not able to do it.”

One well-placed source in the unit reveals that while filming the Ghoomar song, Bhansali—who was growing increasingly frustrated that Deepika Padukone wasn’t able to nail the steps—asked a technician to pull up a song clip of Madhuri Dixit from Devdas on YouTube and show it to his leading lady. He complained that she was flapping her arms all over the place and needed to bring more grace to her movements.

His collaborators, however, insist that this is the classic SLB modus operandi. “He deliberately undermines his actors and pushes them harder to give more than they’re used to. They know it too, and that’s why they put up with it without complaining,” says a technician who frequently works with the filmmaker.

As Good as It Gets

At a film party not long ago, a prominent filmmaker who was engaged in a conversation with the leading lady of his most recent dud, got his revenge on the actress, whom he has said gave him a hard time during the making of the film.

On spotting a screenwriter who had engaged in a spat with the actress in the media recently, the director beckoned him to join them, then excused himself to visit the men’s room, leaving the two warring parties face to face and feeling very awkward.

Nicely played.