The Supreme Court of India gave the go-ahead to the film makers of the controversial Sanjay Leela Bhansali film Padmaavat for its scheduled release this Friday, quashing the petition by four states seeking a ban on the film’s release on grounds of possible rioting and law and order situation.
However the most-awaited blockbuster of 2018 opens to audiences on Friday under threat of protests by outfits like the Karni Sena in blatant disregard of the SC’s orders.
Though film critics and even Godman Sri Sri Ravi Shanker have extolled the film maker for gloriously portraying the film’s central character Padmavati as an exceptionally beautiful and valiant Rajput queen, protest against the same hold India on hold with the release daye drawing closer. Already 50 vehicles have been gutted by Rajputana protestors in Rajasthan and Gujarat and across other regions in India.
So what exactly is the controversy about? The Karni Sena and other Rajput outfits have objected to the way the film has shown the valiant queen dancing “in a short blouse and not the traditional poshak that Rajput women wear” to the now-famous Ghumar song. They claim that a dream sequence in the film showing a lusty Allauddin Khilji in a lovemaking sequence with the queen is “outrageous and intolerable, a stain on the much touted Rajput honour.”
The film features actress Deepika Padukone in the central role of the defiant queen of the Rajput Royal Ratan Singh(Shahid Kapoor) pitted against a lusty Allauddin Khilji played by Deepika real.life beau Ranveer Kapoor.
The film director has inserted a disclaimer in the film’s opening credits citing Malik Mohammad Jaisi’s epic Padmaavat as the source for the film. In Jaisi’s tome Allauddin Khilji is shown obsessed with Padmavati, after a single glimpse of the beauteous Rajput queen in a mirror. This leads to him enslaving and torturing her husband Ratan Singh and attacking Chittorgarh to make the queen his own. A bloody battle ensues and while Ratan Singh is killed, faced with bitter defeat and certain humiliation, Padmaavati leads her troupe of royal ladies to the palace centre where they all commit Jauhar by jumping into an open fire rather than be taken captive by Khilji and his forces.
Lyricist, poet Javed Akhtar and his actress wife Shabana Azmi are just two of the many Bollywood insiders who have spoken out sternly against the protestors on grounds of creative licence . Support for the film has also grown after the SC verdict.
While the film opens to public on the 25th over the long Republic Day weekend, the Karni Sena has threatened to not even allow the posters of the film to be put up and warned the public to stay away from theatres over the weekend.
This is not the first time that Bollywood, the Acronym encompassing the multi billion Indian film industry has seen opposition to some releases.
Deepa Mehta, the Canadian film maker faced violent protests when she went for the Indian release of her bold film Fire. The final film of this elemental trilogy Water, which focusses on the plight of the widows of Benares (Varanasi), was not allowed to be shot in India and finally was filmed in Sri Lanka.
Despite his earlier interview to the press expressing anguish and objection to the film, the Maharana of Mewar, Shriji Arvind Singh a direct descendant of Maharana Pratap, has now refused to comment further on the controversy after the Supreme Court upheld the release of the film.
However people are left to wonder where the Karni Sena and its allied outfits were when Episode 26 of Director Shyam Benegal’s famous serial Bharat ek Khoj was telecast on National television with similar content, showing Queen Padmavati doing a similar ghoomar dance with other ladies of the court.