Padmavati row: Don’t mask ‘masala’ as history, says Mewar royal
The drama and debates over Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Padmavati -- the story of Rajput queen Padmini -- has upset a direct descendant of the Mewar royal family. Baijiraj Trivikrama Kumari Jamwal, daughter of Mahendra Singh Mewar -- the 76th Maharana of the Mewar dynasty and a former Lok Sabha member -- is otherwise quietly going about her life as an English teacher at a school here.
But amidst heightened protests against Padmavati, which she has tagged an “inauthentic venture”, Trivikrama says it’s unfair that her family’s name is being dragged into generating “free publicity” for the film.
“The sad part is that the film is getting free pre-release publicity, and that a commercial and inauthentic venture like this is using my family’s name. It’s not just a question of incorrect portrayal, which is established from the trailer and the ‘Ghoomar’ song itself, but also the fact that you’re using my family’s name for the commercial pre-release publicity of your film, free of cost... And the national media is talking about it. That’s my problem,” said Trivikrama.
Bhansali’s Padmavati has been mired in controversy. The conjecture that it distorts history has led organisations like Shri Rajput Karni Sena and Sarv Brahmin Mahasabha to go up in arms against the release of the movie, while BJP leaders have been making statements and appeals to stop its release on December 1. “That’s why I am so upset. People have political and commercial agendas. There’s nothing wrong with commercial enterprises and politics, but misusing and exploiting somebody’s pride, honour and dignity for such shallow purposes, that is where I step in and say, ‘Sorry, not acceptable’,” Trivikrama said.
The makers have maintained there is no dream romance sequence shown between the Rajput queen and invader Alauddin Khilji, as had been alleged by some. But a few political leaders and Jaipur’s former princess Diya Kumari have suggested Bhansali must show the movie to some historians prior to its release.
Trivikrama questions, “It depends who the historians are because history is also coloured. It has to be a well-represented congress of historians. He (Bhansali) should approach the most authentic voice, which is the family itself. That he hasn’t done.”
Her mother, Maharani Nirupama Kumari commented, “He has already made the film. What’s the point of showing it to historians now?”
To many, the story of Rani Padmini remains a mystery. What is the story Trivikrama has grown up with? “If you go as a tourist to Chittorgarh Fort, you’re taken to Padmini’s Palace, and you’re shown a couple of mirrors. The tourist guide tells you about it and he points out a little pond and says she stood over there and Alauddin Khilji saw her face. But that is just packaging culture to sell to ignorant tourists,” she said.
Trivikrama said Rani Padmini finds a mention in Veer Vinod, a record book on Mewar’s history. “It’s a historical record that shows yes she was there, she was the wife of Rawal Ratan Singh and she was only an excuse that Alauddin Khilji used to invade Chittor. The real reason was a very calculated military decision to invade,” she said.
“Padmini was not in the picture at all, except now what has been made into a tale, which is a figment of imagination, I believe. It’s not there in history,” she said, pointing out that their family is one of the oldest families with an unbroken succession.
She estimated that there were over 30 generations between now and the first Jauhar -- self-immolation led by Rani Padmini in 1303 during the seige of Chittor.
What about the epic Awadhi poem Padmavat? “Apparently, it’s a self-confessed piece of fiction. I’m ready to accept that you (Bhansali) have made a piece of fiction. But then don’t drag my family’s name into it and claim you’re the custodian of my family’s history,” asserted Trivikrama, a PhD in English literature.
She said filmmakers are doing a lot in the garb of artistic license. “Sure you have that, but then along with artistic license, there should be artistic integrity and sensitivity,” she said, pointing out how the representation of Rani Padmini is “wrong” even in terms of dance and clothes.
“Instead of making it clear that it is Bollywood masala, you’re saying it is history and misleading and ‘miseducating’ the future generations.”