The release date of Hollywood film 5 Weddings has been postponed by a month, from September 28 to October 26, and the circumstances leading up to the delay are stretching the patience of director Namrata Singh Gujral.
Two years after wrapping shooting, Gujral feels more than ready to release a movie she describes as "soft, cute" but that also has "moments that will leave you thinking". She tells us the film was initially on hold because she made a promise to Rajkummar Rao: the movie's lead actor wanted to get a Screen Actors Guild card before its release, presumably to make it easier to bag future Hollywood roles.
"Without going into the specifics," Gujral says over the phone from California, "let's just say it was a personal favour I did, and I stress - I had no problems with that and don't regret it even now."
Rao is upset?
Their relationship was tested over the weekend however, when a media report, quoting unidentified sources, said Rao was upset with the makers of 5 Weddings and will not participate in any promotional activities. Gujral is not sure who to believe.
"Since yesterday, Raj and his manager have been texting me repeatedly, assuring me this is not true. Instead, they asked me if anyone on my side got that impression, which is obviously not [the case]. Indian media can be fickle. Freaking unbelievable."
Gujral is quick to reassure us that the alleged false alarm about Rao being upset has nothing to with the delayed release of the film, which is about an American reporter travelling to cover an Indian wedding.
Then the censor board stepped in...
In the film, Nargis Fakri's reporter character then turns her focus towards a transgender community in India, and the handling of this in the film may have caused some of the delays.
"There were problems with the censor board in India objecting to the depiction of transgenders. They are known as Hijra, which I am told is derogatory. All my life, and in the movie, the word is used liberally. Even the transgenders call themselves that," she says.
Since it is difficult to reshoot all of the scenes, a compromise has been met between Gujral and the censors to add an explanatory scene that refers to the 'Kinnar', the accepted Hindi term for transgenders.
Another hurdle has been that they now need to seek a certificate from the Animal Welfare Board to attest that no cruelty has been done even though there "are no animal actors", Gujral reveals. "All these will take time and we have a new set of distributors who are looking into it, hence the delay," the producer-director says.
The film, which was shot in Chandigarh in 2016, is set for an October 26 release.