Now, that Pahlaj Nahlani has stated: “Watch the film and then judge”, anything we say or do – be it to protect Padmavati’s pride or to break the Karni Sena’s prejudice – would appear Lilliputian in judgement. So, long story short, here’s a look at all the brouhaha that the film has managed to rake up over the past couple of months.
Lights, Camera & the Karni Sena
When you say lights and camera, the Karni Sena is only too happy to oblige with some action. What began with a literal slap on Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s face on the pretext “of distortion of historical facts” has now taken the shape of a country-wide rebellion with over four states coming out in protest against the film’s release. While some are offering a bulky price for Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s head, others are willing to settle for Deepika Padukone’s nose instead – as long as there’s bloodshed.
Myth v/s Reality
Legend has Rani Padmini, or Padmavati — if we are to refer to her by the name given by Malik Muhammad Jayasi in his 1540-poem, Padmavat – as a famed beauty married to the Rajput king of Chittorgarh. A fictional queen, therefore, who went on to become the object of lust for the brutal Muslim invader, Alauddin Khilji. Now, Khilji didn’t flinch before getting his own father-in-law beheaded, so waging war to steal another man’s wife (supposedly) to suit his barbaric fancies would only seem like his second nature. However, before the Turkic Sultan could capture Chittor and subsequently its beautiful queen, Padmavati and her companions committed self-immolation to protect their honour. Cut to reality, while Khilji did capture Chittor after a long battle in 1303 – with enough historical evidence to substantiate his victory – the mythical Rani remains a figment of Jayasi’s imagination, who came into the picture almost 200 years after the actual siege in a fictitious retelling of the battle of Chittorgarh.
Political Undertones: CBFC’s Role
On November 12, the BJP wrote to the Election Commission seeking a ban on the release of Padmavati till after the Gujarat Assembly elections (December 9 and 14), claiming the movie would hurt the sentiments of the Kshatriya and Rajput communities for its “wrong depiction of history”. Soon after, CBFC explained that the film had to be sent back to the makers on grounds of incomplete submission. The producers had reportedly left a crucial column blank in the application, a column that requires them to specify whether or not the film is a work of fiction. But there seems to be more to the story than meets the eye, now that industry insiders fear Bhansali has ruffled a few feathers in the CBFC by holding private screenings of his film for select journalists to win media approval.
The Other Side of the Story: Bollywood speak
Riteish Deshmukh: “What kind of a country are we becoming???? Open death threats!!! Hope our Honorable Government takes quick action. #Padmavati #KyaMeraBharatMahaanHai?”
Anurag Basu: “Its bizarre!! the whole #Padmavati row is based on just presumptions. protestors have not seen a single frame of the film yet,but they know tht history hs been se tampered! How!”
Gauri Shinde: “We r not going to be held ransom by a minuscule group of goons who even threaten murder over a film.its not the voice of the nation.Never forget the majority of the country believes in sanity, and the rule of law #padmavati #SLB @deepikapadukone”
Salman Khan: “I believe that the censor board should take the decision. Sanjay makes very beautiful and nice films. His movies never have vulgar and disgusting content. Keeping in mind his past records one should get a sense that he cannot portray anyone in a bad light.”
Farhan Akhtar: “I am totally against anything being banned. I genuinely believe that we should stop treating our audiences as children. It is important for the development of any nation that there are viewpoints, that are not always in agreement with the majority… It’s time for the film fraternity to come and stand together on these issues. We are a really small industry, so if we don’t come together then no one will do for us.”
Karan Johar: “I have faced a lot of controversies before the release of a film. I feel bad for a filmmaker, who is one of the best in the country. Sanjay Leela Bhansali has made a beautiful film and I hope he is protected by the people who understand that creativity is a form of expression. I think we should trust and believe him and give this film all the love.”
To Watch or Not To Watch: Local Connect
Avik Kanjilal, chef
Of course, I will watch the film. Sanjay Leela Bhansali is a fantastic filmmaker and I admire his work. I think creative liberty is extremely important and having said that, I do also believe that there must some sort of a disclaimer stating that the film is a work of fiction – which it appears to be. If not, putting it across as a work of history might trigger further backlash – also, not something I endorse, but India, on the whole, is a largely sentimental nation and we must do our best to not hurt populist sentiments.
Sree Chowdhury, digital media advisor
I will definitely watch the film. I don’t believe in putting checks on creative freedom in the name of sentiments. In my opinion, even the threats made by the Karni Sena to Deepika Padukone seem nothing but an attempt by some fringe elements to grab the limelight. If anything, we all know these threats have no weight – this is Deepika we are talking about – you can’t just get up one fine morning and decide to chop off her nose! All said, I feel all this hullabaloo is going to rake in a lot of moolah for Padmavati; Bhansali should just sit back and enjoy.