Rajput groups piled more pressure on filmmaker Sanjay Leela Bhansali over his latest production Padmavati, demanding on Monday that the title be purged and film screened before a team of Rajasthan historians ahead of its release.
The film, starring Deepika Padukone as queen Padmavati, ran into trouble after members of a little-known outfit, Karni Sena, stopped its shooting at Jaigarh Fort in Jaipur on Friday, vandalised sets and manhandled director Bhansali.
The group alleged distortion of facts, saying the Bollywood filmmaker, known for his extravagant productions such as Devdaas, was showing the Rajput queen in a poor light by weaving a romance with her arch-enemy — Muslim king Alauddin Khilji.
Bhansali’s representative said a letter has been sent to the Rajput groups, clarifying that there is no romantic dream sequence or any objectionable scene between Padmavati and Khilji, played by Ranveer Singh in the movie.
According to historians, Padmavati was a character in Padmawat, a book written by Malik Mohammad Jaisi around 1550, and it has no connection with history at all.
The protests reignited a debate over growing intolerance in the country as Bollywood celebrities and social media railed against the assault on the film’s crew.
The Karni Sena and another group, the Rajput Sabha, called a joint press conference on Monday to clarify that the misunderstanding over the alleged distortion of historical facts had been sorted out.
But halfway through the conference, the Sena’s state president Mahipal Singh Makrana demanded that the film’s name be changed. “We cannot give any assurance (to allow shooting of the movie) as long as this demand is not fulfilled,” he said.
The group’s founder, Lokendra Singh Kalvi, rejected the demand.
“We did request the makers to consider changing the title. They cited the instance of Jodha Akbar in which the name remained but some changes were made in the script. We are satisfied with their explanation,” Kalvi told Hindustan Times.
For its part, the Rajput Sabha, the apex body of Rajasthan’s dominant community, asked the filmmaker to constitute a screening committee of historians from the state along with a judge of the Rajasthan high court to review the movie before its release.
These demands kept the controversy afire, with no clear sign when shooting can resume.
Jat leaders in Bharatpur burnt effigies of Bhansali and Prime Minister Narendra Modi and demanded banning of the movie stating that no “distortion of history” would be tolerated.
Politicians are either silent or divided over the controversy. The BJP parliamentarian for Barmer, Col Sonaram Choudhary, condemned the attack on Bhansali, saying such incidents send a wrong signal abroad about the country.
Bhansali has earlier directed an opera version of Padmavati, his rendition of a 1923 ballet written by Albert Roussel. It received a standing ovation at the Theatre du Chatelet in Paris in March 2008.