As protests against Sanjay Leela Bhansali-directed Padmavati intensified over the alleged “distortion of history”, producer Viacom18 Motion Pictures on Sunday announced it had “voluntarily deferred the release date of the film” from December 1. The studio did not say when the historical drama, featuring Deepika Padukone, Shahid Kapoor and Ranveer Singh, will be released.
Following the announcement, the Shri Rajput Karni Sena, the caste group leading the protests against the film, withdrew its call for a Bharat bandh on December 1, but also rejected the studio’s announcement as an “attempt to fool people”.
In Uttar Pradesh, Deputy Chief Minister Keshav Prasad Maurya said he would not allow the film to be released in the state until all controversial portions had been deleted. The UP government had earlier conveyed to the union Ministry of Information & Broadcasting that “public anger” over the “script” and “distorted historical facts” in the film could have an “adverse effect” on the law-and-order situation in the state.
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On Friday, the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) had returned Viacom’s application for clearance for the film, triggering speculation that its release might be pushed back to next year.
CBFC chairman Prasoon Joshi had said: “In this specific case, the film’s application came up this week only for review. The makers know and admit that the paperwork is not complete — the very disclaimer whether the film is work of fiction or a historical was left blank and not stated — and on simply and legitimately being asked to provide important documents, they target the CBFC for ‘looking the other way and delay’. This truly is surprising.”
In a statement, Viacom said on Sunday, “We are a responsible, law-abiding corporate citizen and have the highest respect and regard for the law of the land and all our institutions and statutory bodies including the Central Board of Film Certification… We have faith that we will soon obtain the requisite clearances to release the film. We will announce the revised release date of the film in due course.”
It added, “Along with Sanjay Leela Bhansali, amongst the most gifted filmmakers of his generation, Viacom18 Motion Pictures has created a beautiful cinematic masterpiece in Padmavati that captures Rajput valour, dignity and tradition in all its glory. The film is an eloquent portrayal of a tale that will fill every Indian with pride and showcase our country’s story-telling prowess across the globe.”
The founder patron of the Karni Sena, Lokendra Singh Kalvi, however, said that deferring the film’s release only means it will be released at a later date, which was unacceptable to his organisation. Therefore, Kalvi said in Jaipur on Sunday evening, while “there is no need for the (planned) Bharat bandh now”, the Karni Sena still wanted a “complete ban” on the film.
“Some people have been alleging that we are hand in glove with Bhansali as its TRP has risen because of us. So if we don’t damage (that notion) 100 per cent, I will have no right to say I am the 37th descendant of Rana Ratan Singh and Rani Padmavati,” Kalvi said.
“What is being done now — they are saying they have deferred its release on December 1 on their own — is an attempt to fool people. We Rajputs are naïve and will accept it, but the world understands something is amiss.”
Bhansali, Kalvi said, was a “regular offender”, and Rajputs would “face” the filmmakers again and give a fresh call for a Bharat bandh whenever the film is released.
Also on Sunday, Uttar Pradesh Deputy Chief Minister Keshav Prasad Maurya said the film would not be released in the state until all controversial portions had been removed.
“Unhone (Rani Padmavati) mughalon ke adheen hone ki jagah, mughalon ko apney ko samarpit karne ki jagah, apne satitva ki raksha ke liye jauhar ki jwala me jali hain. Main unko naman karta hun (Instead of giving herself up to the Mughals, Rani Padmavati chose to commit jauhar. I salute her),” Maurya said at a public meeting in Hamirpur, and later, while speaking to a local television news channel.
The legend of Padmavati, as described in Malik Muhammad Jayasi’s Awadhi poem written around 1540, says the queen of Chittorgarh committed jauhar to save herself from Alauddin Khalji, the sultan of Delhi. Khalji’s siege of the fort took place in 1303, over two centuries before the first Mughal, Babur, arrived in India from central Asia.
On the film Padmavati, Maurya said that as the state’s minister in charge of entertainment tax, “main tab tak yahan par film ko pradarshit karne ki anumati nahin dunga jab tak Uttar Pradesh ke andar pradarsan karne se pehle uss film me se wah vivadit ansh nikalkar ke bahar na kar diye jaye. (I will not allow the film to be shown in UP until all disputed portions are left out.)”
The film industry, which is not known for speaking up during crises such as this, has been largely silent. Veteran actor Shabana Azmi is the only top film personality who has openly criticised the use of threats and intimidation against the Padmavati team, and has called for the industry to be united.— With inputs from Jaipur, Lucknow