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Saturday, July 21, 2018

Breaking Down News: One Queen to Rule Them All

How Padmavati’s trailer overtook the main feature, and the cop-out in Zimbabwean coup reporting

Written by Pratik Kanjilal | Updated: November 25, 2017 1:04:45 am
Delhi HC rejects plea against release of Padmavati Boys look at a poster of Bollywood film ‘Padmavati’ in Mumbai. (AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool)

A harmless outing to a Gurgaon mall to see Golmaal Again appears to have lit the fuse for the latest paroxysm of the ongoing golmaal around Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Padmavati, in which the lead actress has been threatened with the excision of crucial body parts for a commercial consideration. At the theatre, Haryana BJP media chief Suraj Pal ‘Amu’ and his friends Bhim Bhateja and Dinesh Chauhan saw posters for Padmavati, and were treated to a trailer, in which, they say, the legendary queen danced for Alauddin Khilji.

They found it objectionable and had the posters removed. They also wonder how the trailer could have been shown before the Central Board of Film Certification cleared Padmavati for public viewing. And on Sunday, at a Rajput meet in Delhi, ‘Amu’ famously asked if the bounty on Deepika Padukone, which then stood at Rs 5 crore, should not be doubled.

At an undisclosed location elsewhere in this movie-mad nation, Arnab Goswami saw much more than the trailer. He saw the whole film, and declared it to be excellent. He clarified that when (not if) it is released, the film would make Padmavati an even greater legend than she is, and that there were absolutely no objectionable scenes — or even scenes of intimacy. Goswami’s Republic TV is perceived to be a mouthpiece of the BJP, but he warned that the party would look foolish if it backed demands for a ban, that the Karni Sena would look foolish, that everyone involved in trashing the movie would look foolish when the public got to see it. With the significant exception of Sanjay Leela Bhansali, who has got an enviable dose of free publicity and “mmmmmmilked it!”

Everyone gets lectured on Goswami’s show. Bhansali got his dose, too, because the game is now apparently out of control, and “when people get provoked” it can be dangerous. Why on earth didn’t Bhansali say very clearly that the film contained nothing objectionable? Why didn’t he organise private viewings for people who mattered in the months since the Karni Sena set fire to his sets? Why didn’t he show Goswami the rushes? Eh, why not, until now? Clearly to gain publicity, he felt. Because publicity “just happens”. The world’s advertising agencies will not be pleased to learn that they no longer have a viable business plan.

Neither does Miss World, the celebration of womanhood which was sharply critiqued in the ’90s and never quite recovered. The quietus has been delivered with a bare-naked bodkin this year by Shashi Tharoor, whose affably smiling picture graced almost all the stories concerning the victory, instead of Manushi Chhillar’s. A pun on her surname briefly made him more infamous than the 2017 Miss World is famous. Tharoor has a history of getting into trouble with his little jokes, but Chhillar has reacted much more graciously than the “holy cows” with whom Tharoor had once travelled in “cattle class”. His political career had lost momentum for a while after after that trip.

Another conclusion which should have been obvious long ago is that the army is in charge in Zimbabwe, and that Robert Mugabe, the world’s oldest and longest-serving head of state, was technically offstage long before he stepped down. Most major agencies have access to Harare, but it took them until Wednesday for the press to conclude what had been obvious earlier in the week — that Mugabe and his wife were under detention. The reluctance to report a coup is surprising. In the 20th century, it used to be quite the opposite, with Western media happy to call a coup a coup every other day, under the general impression that couping was as common a pastime in the benighted South as golfing was in the North.

And finally, in a ridiculous goofup which did not make the mainstream news, a Catholic school in Adelaide, Australia, had to cover up, the very day it was unveiled, a statue of St Dominic giving a loaf of bread to a child because… look, it’s illegal to spell it out in print. It’s in bad taste besides, which is more important. But seek the keywords on the internet, and ye shall find. Just goes to show that the student community is not entirely wrong to suspect that educators aren’t the smartest people on campus.

pratik.kanjilal@expressindia.com

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