UP asks Centre to defer Padmavati release, protests spread to other states
Uttar Pradesh has joined the protests against Bollywood film Padmavati that have broken out across several states over the “distorted” depiction of its main characters and calls for a countrywide shutdown, asking the Centre to defer its release on December 1 citing the public anger.
The Uttar Pradesh government has referred to intelligence reports that say the release of the film starring Deepika Padukone, Shahid Kapoor and Ranveer Singh can lead to a large scale law and order problems in the state.
Its home secretary Arvind Kumar has said in his letter to the Union information and broadcasting ministry that the administration would be busy with counting the civil election votes and Muslim festival Barawafat on the day of the film’s release and therefore providing security for the movie would be difficult.
The letter comes a day after protests against film’s director Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s movie turned violent in Rajasthan where members of the Karni Sena vandalised a theatre in Kota after it screened a trailer of Padmavati. Six members of the group were arrested.
Both the Congress and the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) are on the same page and are protesting the movie said to be hurting the sentiments of Rajputs, an influential vote bank in the state. Rajasthan goes to polls in December 2018.
The Rajput community has alleged the film depicts an “amorous relationship” between Padmavati – portrayed by Padukone – and Alauddin Khilji – played by Singh. Bhansali and his team have, however, dismissed the claims on several occasions.
Historians say Padmavati was a fictional character in Padmawat, an epic poem written by Malik Mohammad Jaisi in the 16th century, and it has no connection with history at all.
Protests in Rajasthan
The movie has been facing trouble since January this year.
The first attack took place at Jaipur’s Jaigarh fort when scores of Karni Sena members barged onto the sets and assaulted movie staff, including Bhansali. The incident triggered outrage and drew condemnation from Bollywood but Bhansali soon appeared to reach a compromise with the protesters by agreeing to delete the sequences.
But Bhansali and Rajput Karni Sena reached an agreement on January 30 and Sanjay Leela Bhansali Productions had clarified the film has been made keeping Rajput pride in mind.
Sena’s patron Lokendra Singh Kalvi, who claims to be the 37th descendant of Padmini’s husband Ratan Singh of Chittorgarh, said the filmmaker did not honour the commitment and released film’s trailer.
Its members have given a memorandum to district collectors at several places demanding a ban on the film.
Members of former royal families, including Jaipur’s Diya Kumari who is a BJP legislator, have also spoken against the film. Even a non-Rajput royal, Vishvendra Singh of Bharatpur who is a Jat and a Congress legislator, raised his voice against the film for distorting history.
Rajput women under Kshatrani Mahasangh in Jaipur and Jauhar Kshatrani Sangh in Chittorgarh have also demanded the screening of the film for community leaders and Rajasthan historians before its commercial release.
Dharohar Bachao Samiti, Shiv Sena, and Sarv Brahmin Mahasabha are some of the non-Rajput organisations protesting the film.
Rajasthan home minister Gulab Chand Kataria said every outfit has the right to protest but sounded a stern warning against people taking the law into their hand.
A few days ago, he announced that a committee will preview the film before its release but later backtracked saying this was an issue to be dealt by the arts and culture department.
On Wednesday, Rajasthan commission for women chief Suman Sharma wrote to the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) chief Prasoon Joshi to clear the confusion and ensure that the film didn’t have any content that “distorted history or hurt people’s sentiments”.
Bhopal, Gwalior, Ratlam and certain other cities in Madhya Pradesh have also witnessed protests in the past few days against Padmavati. The protests are being organised by Akhil Bharatiya Kshatriya Mahasabha and Rajput Karni Sena.
“Bhansali has distorted our history in the film and trivialised the great character of Rani Padmavati. We will not allow films to be screened,” Akhil Bharatiya Kshatriya Mahasabha’s Madhya Pradesh president Prahlad Singh told the Hindustan Times.
In Haryana, two cabinet ministers of the BJP-ruled government have joined the bandwagon of protesters seeking a ban on the release of Padmavati.
The state, however, has not witnessed any protests so far.
Haryana health minister Anil Vij has said that Bhansali has not only dented the image and honour of Padmavati in his movie but also violated the Indian law against the ‘satipratha.’
“The film censor board, an independent agency, should stall the release of Padmavati keeping in view the people’s sentiments,” Vij said in a statement issued on Monday, pointing out that Union information and broadcasting minister Smriti Irani has already been apprised about people’s sentiments in this regard.
Another minister Vipul Goel has urged Union broadcasting and information minister Smriti Irani to allow the release of the film only after ensuring that it does not show any distortion of historical facts.
“There are questions in the minds of the Rajput community and other communities as to whether the film presents a distortion of historical facts,” Goel wrote to Irani in his letter.
“Like other parts of the country, there is anger among the people of Haryana that rather than highlighting rich Indian past and heritage, the film glorifies tyrants like Alauddin Khilji,” the minister said.