The Bollywood film Padmavati, based on a poem about a Rajput queen written by 16th century Sufi poet Malik Muhammad Jayasi, has sparked protests across the country over “misrepresentations” and “distortion of facts”. Director Sanjay Leela Bhansali and actor Deepika Padukone have received several threats, the latest from a senior Haryana BJP leader who has offered a Rs 10 crore bounty for their heads. Suraj Pal Amu, the party’s media coordinator in Haryana, told The Indian Express he has “announced to double the prize money of Rs 5 crore announced by Meerut youth Som.” The party, however, has distanced itself from the leader’s remarks.
The producer of Padmavati, Viacom18 Motion Pictures, “voluntarily” delayed the release of its film on Sunday in light of increasing protests. The film, directed by Bhansali and stars Deepika Padukone, Shahid Kapoor and Ranveer Singh, was originally slated to be released on December 1.
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Who is protesting Padmavati?
Padmavati first ran into trouble back in January, when Bhansali was slapped and assaulted by members of the Karni Sena. The angry mob also ransacked sets of the film for offending the Rajput community. This month, protests intensified in Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Karnataka and Haryana ahead of its release.
In Rajasthan, members of the Rajput community agitated by blocking the entrances to Kumbhalgarh and Chittorgarh Forts and burning effigies of Bhansali, demanding a complete ban of the film. Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje broke her silence on Saturday by appealing to Union Minister of Information and Broadcasting Smriti Irani to ensure the film isn’t released until “necessary changes are made so that sentiments of any community are not hurt.”
Uttar Pradesh deputy chief minister Keshav Prasad Maurya on Sunday said he would not allow the film to be released until controversial parts were omitted. The state government had earlier told the I&B Ministry that the film could have an “adverse effect” on law and order in UP.
Members of the Bharat Kshatriya Samaj, one among a dozen other organisations, held protests in Kolkata last weekend. “(Padmavati) has deeply hurt the Indian culture and the values of the Hindu population in the country”, Rajesh Singh, president, of Bharat Kshatriya Samaj, was quoted as saying by PTI. “The scenes, which are objectionable and harmful to Indian culture, need to be deleted before release.”
Petitions in the Supreme Court
Despite the Supreme Court dismissing a petition seeking a ban on the film on November 10, a fresh plea was filed on November 17. While quashing the first petition, the apex court had observed that it cannot intervene in the Central Board of Film Certification’s decision, which had granted certificate to Padmavati.
The Padmavati crew reacts
Bhansali, in a statement issued over the protests, said, “This movie embroiled into so many controversies because of some rumour. Rumour is this, in the movie a dream scene has been filmed between Rani Padmavati and Alauddin Khilji. I have already rejected this claim and also given a written proof of this. Today again, I am reiterating through this video that in our movie there is no such scene between Rani Padmavati and Alauddin Khilji, which would hurt the sentiments of anyone.”
Deepika Padukone, in an interview with The Indian Express, said, “We are extremely proud and confident of the film we have made. When the heart is in the right place, no one can stop a film.” She added, “For how long would the entertainment industry be made a scapegoat for everything that happens in this country? Why attack cinema which is full of love and which brings people together? Why curb people’s freedom of expression? How long can we allow some people to get away with what they have been doing?” Read the entire interview here.
“Give Padmavati a chance. Don’t form preconceived notions,” Shahid Kapoor also reacted saying.
Veteran director Shyam Benegal is the latest to criticise the CBFC and government for its inaction against those threatening the film’s director and actors. Speaking to The Indian Express, Benegal said, “This is a democracy. People may not agree with what I have to say but I have the right to say it.”
“Isn’t it the job of government to prevent (threats of) murders and attacks when being made publicly on national TV? People are being threatened publicly,” he added.
(With inputs from agencies)