Is Bollywood ready to formally institutionalize the Pregnancy Clause in agreements for the heroine? Or are we just that impractical? It is not the 18th century and women can choose when to have children. Why should an industry like Bollywood suffer for confused (or conveniently forgotten) pregnancy dates?
Big B tweeted and it was a big deal. Apparently in a matter of hours, thousands of well wishers responded with congratulatory tweets. But somehow, the whole country did not seem half as elated. Madhur Bhandarkar was definitely one of the unhappy ones.
He had four crores invested in his magnum opus- Heroine, that starred the happily pregnant Aishwarya Rai Bachchan. The movie was 50 per cent complete and the first family of Bollywood dropped the baby bomb. The shooting was stalled, for the movie required Rai to smoke on screen, run and shoot under a waterfall. With the whole world knowing about her pregnancy, the first concern became her health. Everyone forgot about the movie.
Don't get me wrong. Pregnancy is great news, it deserves the celebration and the tremendous care and concern the mother-to-be needs. But she is not 'just' a mother. She is a star who is still very much entwined with her profession. She was the face of 'Heroine' and the success of the film was riding on her fair shoulders. Was it fair on her end to leave her job unfinished?
Each and every Bollywood film is about a massive amount of money, a lot of stakes involved in it. If a film of the stature of 'Heroine' is stalled -loads of people are going to suffer serious losses. Also, with hits like 'Page 3' and 'Fashion' - every Madhur Bhandarkar movie comes loaded with expectations. So not just losses, it is about disappointments.
In such a scenario, should Bollywood take the 'Pregnancy Clause' seriously?
With Rai's pregnancy and her exit form the movie, criticism from all angles have been buzzing- Labor Laws do not permit an employer to fire an employee on the grounds of pregnancy. But what was Bhandarkar to do?
UTV has said in a press release that the shooting has been stopped for the script requires the female protagonist to smoke, be under the waterfall and run and it is vital for Rai to be in good health now. The grueling demands of the movie that was supposed to wrap up by the 30th of July does not seem to be making any allowances for the pregnant star. The house has declared that she is no longer a part of the movie.
Who will be - we can speculate on that later.
Hollywood on the other hand is rather serious about the 'Pregnancy Clause'. The agreements they sign with their female leads are bullet proof. It is mandatory that the female protagonist must finish shooting for the movie, meeting all the demands of the script. There is no bending the rule. Would this work for Bollywood?
Indian directors commented on it saying that it does not work for the Indian Industry. Hollywood has been accused of being insensitive and borderline cold-hearted dealing with this joyous biological process. But it is business. And at the end of the day if the movie does not reach the screens - the producers and the directors will have more than just economic hassles to deal with.
Subhash Ghai had the clause with Madhuri Dixit during the shoot of Khalnayak. The star was romantically involved with Sanjay Dutt and the Director did not want her to get pregnant and leave the movie mid way. Post that one instance- the clause has been missing in Bollywood. And it is called upon the issues of 'word' and 'honor' in these cases -that the lead actress must complete the shooting as per schedule.
It seems that 'word' and 'honor' are not working for 'Heroine'.
Rai is scheduled to deliver in November and she has given the project time till the 30th of July. If dates are to be calculated, Aishwarya must have been well aware of her pregnancy and should have informed the director about it well ahead critical time. With one month to go for the shooting to finish - the announcement seems rather harsh for the production house.
Even if she manages to wrap up the scenes, she will be unavailable for the post-production. It is believed that the scene that requires her to run has already been shot and she can rather easily complete the rest. The director obviously thinks otherwise. While Rai is supposed to take a sabbatical from Bollywood post the shooting, Bhandarkar is worried about her look in the movie.
Pregnancy is a celebration, but, can we possibly not worry about the flipside of this situation? With crores at stake it seems that Bollywood needs a pregnancy clause.
Alternatively, we must add, that every woman has the privilege and the power to become a mother and that is not worth a compromise on any level. Let us put it this way- would a pregnant mother settle for another doctor when her trusted gynecologist is on pregnancy leave?
No one compromises on business or conveniences. Why should Bhandarkar?
This is not to say that we are taking sides- but the directors' disappointment is understandable and justified. Can he wait till Rai is fit enough to return? With four crores gone already...perhaps not.
Get the documents rolling Bollywood- it is time to get practical.