“Am I a ghost?” That’s Shree Rajput Karni Sena chief Lokendra Singh Kalvi’s response to a question on claims that Padmavati or Padmini is a fictitious character, the creation of a 16th century poet in Awadh. Declaring he is from the 37th generation of the descendants of Rani Padmini and Maharana Pratap, Kalvi told reporters Wednesday they should “ask my priests” in Haridwar and Pushkar about his lineage — that he is not a ghost, and since he exists, he will continue to defend the honour of a queen he and many others believe existed.
At a press conference in New Delhi on his outfit’s objection to Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Padmavati, Kalvi said nobody from the Karni Sena, including him, has seen the film. So on what basis is Karni Sena protesting against the film? Because Bhansali, Kalvi says, is a “regular offender” when it comes to “distorting” history in cinema, and that he does not have any faith in the director’s word that there are no intimate scenes between Allauddin Khilji and Padmavati in the film.
In 2008, Karni Sena objected to Ashutosh Gowariker’s Jodhaa Akbar. Their objection then was that Akbar had no Rajput queen named Jodhaa Bai. That was Karni Sena’s first shot at fame.
After the press conference Wednesday, Kalvi said he does not watch movies because he does not have the time. But filmmakers, he says, should make movies depicting Rajputs in positive light, “achha dikhao… khoob kamao”. As an example of a movie that has shown Rajputs in all their glory, he cites S S Rajamouli’s magnum opus Baahubali — he hasn’t seen it either, but believes it is a good example.
On Padmavati, the Karni Sena’s objections are to some alleged intimate scenes between Ranveer Singh who plays Khilji and Deepika Padukone who is Padmavati. Kalvi wants to know if someone comes to their land — Rajasthan — and shoot scenes that depict their women wrongly, “kya do thappar maarne layak bhi nahi hai?” (don’t they deserve two slaps?) — a reference to an incident in January this year when the film’s director was assaulted on the sets in Jaipur, allegedly by Karni Sena.
Though Bhansali has claimed that the film has no scene with Khilji and Padmavati in the same frame, Kalvi says it is too late. The Karni Sena, he says, wants a complete ban on the film and, through the press, he is requesting the Prime Minister. The chief ministers of Gujarat, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh have announced that they will not allow the film to be released in their states. Kalvi says he is going to meet three other chief ministers over the next couple of days, and by the time the release date arrives, he will have 14 chief ministers on his side.
On Padukone’s remark that the film will be released, Kalvi has a poser: “Is she the Prime Minister or the President” to make such statements. He claims that as a former basketball player, he shared sports camps with Padukone’s father, international badminton champion Prakash Padukone. The actress, he says, is “nalayak”, unworthy, disappointing. So what is the way out for the film? According to Kalvi, it is quite simple. Copies of the film, he says, should be packed in silver boxes used earlier for reels, and burnt. That is, to save the Rajput pride, Padmavati the film must meet the same fate as the Queen — Jauhar.