THE MUMBAI Police on Friday detained 96 members of Karni Sena and other Rajput fringe groups protesting outside the office of the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) against clearance given by the board for the release of movie Padmavat. The Sanjay Leela Bhansali directed movie is scheduled to be released in the state on January 25.
The protesters were detained at Gamdevi police station in south Mumbai for a couple hours. A few protesters were released later in the evening. “We had detained 96 protesters and depending on the agitation we will decide about the police protection outside CBFC office,” said Deepak Devraj, DCP PRO Mumbai Police. For now, the police have deployed a contingent outside the board’s office, he added.
“By just changing the film’s name from ‘Padmavati’ to ‘Padmavat’ doesn’t change the misrepresentation of Rajput history,” said Ratan Singh Rathode, president of Rajasthan Rajput Parishad. At the protest on Peddar Road, members of the Karni Sena handed over a letter to the board officials. According to the letter, a copy of which is with The Indian Express, the protesters warned against the possibility of violence if the film releases in Maharashtra. “We warn that it may lead to a law and order situation and for that, the government will be responsible,” read an excerpt from the letter, the receipt of which has been acknowledged by the CBFC.
“We demand that the CBFC ban the film in Maharashtra as it hurts the sentiments of the Rajput community despite the cuts and the name change by the CBFC,” said Sumita Singh, president of Akhand Rajputana Mahila Morcha, one of the first set of protesters to be released. “The CBFC should show the film to some prominent members of the Rajput community, but it didn’t do that… Until the film is not banned, we will continue to protest outside CBFC office,” said Singh.
“If you want to keep the film’s name ‘Padmavat’ and it still misrepresents the history, then change the location from Chitode,” said Rathode. The protesters threatened that they would stage violent protests if the movie was released.
A member of the CBFC confirmed that the protest had hampered the day’s work. Arjun Gupta, the Maharashtra chief of the BJP Uttar Bharatiya Morcha, on Friday, also issued a letter addressed to Union I&B Minister Smriti Irani, demanding that the certification of Padmavat by the CBFC be revoked. Gupta, who is also a CBFC panel member, has claimed that Padmavat has been unfairly certified by the CBFC. He has accused Shrivastav of forgoing the procedure of certifying films and being partial towards the film’s director, Bhansali.
“The 150 CBFC panel members include people from all walks of life… But the examining committee that certified Padmavat had three housewives and a businessman along with the three special members. The examining committee was manipulated to suit the purpose of clearing the film,” the letter claims. Gupta, who was not present at the examining committee meeting, added that Shrivastav later joined in and gave Bhansali a hearing without having watched the film. Shrivastav did not wish to comment on the Karni Sena protest, but reacting to Gupta’s letter, the CBFC CEO said, “These are all wild allegations without any basis. All proper procedures were followed.”
The recent efforts by these fringe elements may seem insignificant now that the film has CBFC’s clearance, but the incidents are making exhibitors jittery. Nitin Datar, head of the Cinema Owners and Exhibitors Association of India, said they were closely watching the developments. “We are not expecting much trouble in Maharashtra but everything depends on how aggressive the protesters turn over the next week or so. If the government promises us protection from these elements, we will go ahead and release the film,” said Datar. However, he expressed concern over Bhansali’s silence. He added that ever since the release of the film has been confirmed for January 25, there has been no official communication from the distributors of the film nor have they shared any publicity material. “We usually begin displaying publicity material a month in advance. But there is no word from the distributors. We need to know if the makers are confident enough for us to bank on the film and risk our money,” added Datar.