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As Padmavati protests rage, a quiet rewrite at Padmini Palace in Chittorgarh

The room, where Singh is said to have showed Padmini's glimpse to Khilji, and which overlooks the 'Jal Mahal' where Padmini was claimed to stay, now stands sealed.

Written by Mohammad Hamza Khan | Chittorgarh | Updated: November 14, 2017 7:41 am
Padmini release, Padmini, Padmini Palace, sanjay leela bhansali, deepika padukone, ranveer singh, Chittaur fort The view of Jal Mahal from Padmini Palace in Chittorgarh.

“It is said that here Rana Ratan Singh showed a glimpse of legendary beauty of his wife Padmini to Alauddin Khilji through a mirror. After which, Alauddin Khilji went to the extent of ravaging Chittaur in order to possess her,” reads a board by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) at the entrance to ‘Padmini Palace’ in Chittorgarh.

The room, where Singh is said to have showed Padmini’s glimpse to Khilji, and which overlooks the ‘Jal Mahal’ where Padmini was claimed to stay, now stands sealed. For the past few weeks, three security personnel have been guarding it round the clock. In March, Shri Rajput Karni Sena (SRKS) had vandalised the mirrors inside, reasoning that no mirrors existed in 1303, and that the ones in the room were installed by the ASI before Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru’s visit about 60 years ago.

Forced by the SRKS, as well as outfits such as the Shri Rajput Sabha (SRS), an influential Rajput body, and Jauhar Smriti Sansthan (JSS), which are leading the protests against Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s film ‘Padmavati’, other changes are in place around the Chittorgarh fort, a UNESCO World Heritage site.

The JSS, Karni Sena, SRS and several other organisations in Rajasthan say there was no interaction between Khilji and Padmini, and hence no question of making a movie with both of them in it.

Guides at the fort have now edited their tales to leave out the mirror story. Claims Prahlad Nil Many, 58, “a guide for nearly two decades”, “I have always told tourists that the current Padmini Palace was a ‘VIP’ guest-house… and Khilji never saw her.”

While fact and fiction aren’t easy to separate from the story of a woman who is believed to have first made an appearance in Malik Muhammad Jayasi’s 1540 poem ‘Padmavat’, around Chittorgarh fort, for people who have long lived by, and off, selected parts of that story, this matters little. Residents assert she remains their “queen”, “goddess”, “mother”.

“Every child in our village knows about her,” says Ram Dayal, 62, who runs a small grocery store within the fort premises. Like many others here, he used to work as a guide. He had to give it up after he fell ill. “I regret never having taken my wife for a tour of the fort,” he says.

“Rani Padmini is our devi. The Mughals were obsequious to the English and hence their versions gained prominence… (Alauddin) Khilji and no foreign man ever saw her,” adds Ashok Kumar, 48, purchasing tobacco from Dayal. The first major English version by Colonel James Tod is said to have lent credibility to the mirror version, though Tod’s works are known to be sympathetic to Rajputs.

“She is like a mother. It’s important to be cautious about how we portray her for the next generation,” declares Maya, who lives a few houses from Dayal’s store.

“The 16,000 women didn’t die without reason,” says her son Himanshu Salvi, 21, referring to the number of women who are said to have performed jauhar or killed themselves along with Padmini to avoid capture by Khilji’s men.

“We are still her praja (subjects),” adds Suresh Sen, 46, whose “seven generations” have lived “on the same spot”.

Not very far away, at Padan Pole, the first gate of the fort, an “indefinite” sit-in protest is on by JSS leaders from “sarva samaj (all communities)” against Bhansali’s film. The JSS says it has chosen the site so that “international tourists also get to know about the bravery of Padmini”.

On November 3, when the JSS called a bandh against the film, other castes too extended support, and most private institutions and offices in Chittorgarh remained shut.

The opposition to the film has lasted since January, when Bhansali was assaulted in Jaipur by Karni Sena members during filming. Rajasthan’s Rajput leaders were then assured by the filmmaker that there was nothing objectionable in the movie. However, they have found grounds to object now in the film’s trailers and songs, released recently. The state government has constituted a committee to look at these objections.

The Rajput leaders have also been shifting the goalposts. In January, after Bhansali Productions agreed to meet their demands, a joint press conference was called by Shobha Sant, CEO of Bhansali Productions, SRS chief Giriraj Singh Lotwara and the Karni Sena’s state president, Mahipal Singh. Mid-conference, Mahipal demanded that the film’s title be changed.

The SRS, that calls Khilji “our all-time worst enemy”, has asked Prime Minister Narendra Modi to impose a countrywide ban on the film as well as demanded an FIR against “habitual offender” Bhansali. They have also asked the PM to “warn” I&B Minister Smriti Irani for “formally supporting the film”, saying she may “be a bit careful in such important matters and withdraw her remarks”.

Apparently referring to the song ‘Ghoomar’ in the film, the SRS says, “If people see Padmini dancing like a stage actor, who will cherish the historical saga of Jauhar, a rarest of rare incident of history?”

Chand Mal, 77, a local, gives the example of the last Mewat ruler, Maharana Bhupal Singh. “When he and his wife used to go for hunting in their car, the queen was always in a veil. I never saw her face,” he says.

Next to him, at a small grocery shop within the Chittorgarh fort, owner Mangilal Jayant, 88, a retired revenue officer, is clear what would happen if the film is released. “I will burn the cinema hall which shows that movie,” he declares.

Kishan Chand, the owner of Chandralok cinema hall in Chittorgarh, is more pragmatic. Pointing out that distributors themselves are fearful, he says, “We can think about releasing the film only once we get it.” As for calls of a ban, he smiles, “If it is duly censored, we will screen it.”

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  1. B
    Nov 14, 2017 at 7:04 pm
    The Bansali should also make movie on wife's of Akbar, Jahangir, Shahjahan with the same actress if he has balls
    1. A
      Nov 14, 2017 at 1:04 pm
      illiterate Beef janata party doesnt know the difference between a cinema and a reality ! before even releasing the movie itself these indian talibans wants to burn the director alive ! very sad to see how our country turned to become another porkistan by these illiterate north indian sanghi goons !!
      1. S
        Nov 14, 2017 at 1:27 pm
        Hello Antony. I don't think it is required for you to teach anyone the difference between cinema and reality. You should understand one thing, if it is cinema and has nothing to do with history, then the director should ensure that Character Names are not used as in History also he should mention it that "THIS MOVIE IS A WORK OF FICTION AND HAS NOT RESEMBLANCE TO ANY PERSON LIVING OR DEAD AND IS DEFINITELY NOT HISTORY". This will ensure STATUS QUO. What Bhansali is doing is being arrogant as the other party. Already Indian History is distorted, what do you want ... do you want to distort the remaining ..
        1. C
          Chandra Babu
          Nov 14, 2017 at 1:35 pm
          Movies are made for producers and actors to make money. Distorting historical facts and representing the legends people adore is a crime. People who distort the facts should be punished. Creative freedom does not mean hurting the sentiments of the people. Every Indian knows that Khilji and Mughals entered India and Perpetrated crimes and untold miseries to the people on those days.
        2. M
          madhukar nikam
          Nov 14, 2017 at 12:08 pm
          Bansali must exhibit his bravery by making films on filmi personalities who had multiple mistresses and affairs , if he wants to glorify his own sister or mother could be portrait, history especially those who had and very strong sense of morality be distorted is not that people will appreciate
          1. A
            Nov 14, 2017 at 11:18 am
            No body knows the facts, reading fic ious stories and accepting ic ideas. The History has gone with a peace and powerful message. Now, making a history for coming generation, how shameless and s are of today......
            1. I
              Nov 14, 2017 at 8:36 pm
              Yes you are right so we should not accept fake history written by Muslim Anti Hindu writers to glorify their masters. AT LAST HISTORY SHOULD BE IMPARTIAL NOT ON BIASED BOOKS WRITTEN BY MUSLIM WRITERS FOR THEIR MASTERS. EVEN THEN SOME OF THEM HAVE MENTIONED RANI PADMINI INCIDENT, LIKE ABU FAZL AND FERISHTA.
            2. S
              Nov 14, 2017 at 11:06 am
              Padmavati is a reflection of the psuedo cultural liberalism that celebrates denigration of Hindu cluture as a measure of their intellectual and secular superiority. Certain Indians are probably the only ones in the world afflicted by this strange disease.
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