Padmaavat: CBFC chief Prasoon Joshi pulls out of JLF, Karni Sena welcomes move

The Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) chief had cleared the Sanjay Leela Bhansali film with U/A certificate and a set of five modifications despite protests by Hindu right-wing groups.

JaipurLitFest Updated: Jan 27, 2018 16:41 IST
Manoj Ahuja
Manoj Ahuja
Hindustan Times, Jaipur
Prasoon Joshi,CBFC chief Prasoon Joshi,Karni Sena
CBFC chief Prasoon Joshi was one of the speakers at the Jaipur Literature Festival last year. (Saumya Khandelwal/HT PHOTO)

Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) chief Prasoon Joshi pulled out of the Jaipur Literature Festival (JLF) after threats by Rajput organisation Karni Sena who is leading protests against the controversial film Padmaavat.

The Shree Rajput Karni Sena welcomed Joshi’s decision, saying that possibly the CBFC chief was “repenting for his mistake at how he had hurt the sentiments of Rajputs” and attempting to make amends.

Joshi, who was scheduled to attend a session on Sunday titled Main aur Woh: Conversations with Myself, had cleared the Sanjay Leela Bhansali period drama with U/A certificate and a set of five modifications.

“Will not be attending JLF this year and must say will miss sharing great moments with literature and poetry lovers. I am doing this so that the dignity of the event does not get compromised or discomfort caused either to the organisers, fellow writers or the attendees. And also so that the lovers of literature get to focus on creativity and not controversy,” Joshi said in a statement mailed by the public relations agency of JLF.

Karni Sena spokesperson Vijendra Singh said: “This comes as good news for us. We are glad that he respected the request of Karni Sena and cancelled his scheduled visit.”

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Joshi also tried to clarify his stance on Padmaavat. “The issue around the film Padmaavat - I did my job and sincerely took a sensitive and balanced call. As I have said earlier, certification was done with due processes, incorporating valid suggestions whilst staying mindful to the concerns of the society as well as to the canvas of cinema. It’s sad that we are not relying on genuine peaceful dialogue. It’s important that we keep mutual trust and faith in each other and our institutions so that the issues don’t reach this far.”

Padmaavat ran into controversy as Hindu right-wing groups protested against its release, saying the film distorts history and presents the Rajput community in a poor light. Protesters have issued death threats against Bhansali and Deepika Padukone, alleging that the queen is shown romancing Muslim emperor Alauddin Khilji in the movie – a charge the filmmakers have denied.

On January 19, a day after Supreme Court had cleared the all-India release of Padmaavat, the Shri Rajput Karni Sena had warned that Joshi would not be allowed to enter Rajasthan and attend the JLF. “We don’t want to hear his lecture. He has put the pride of Rajasthan at stake. How can he deliver a lecture here after humiliating us? People of Rajasthan don’t want such lectures. We will protest against him,” president of the group Mahipal Singh Makrana had said.

On the same day, Sukhdev Singh Gogamedi, leader of Rashtriya Karni Sena, another fringe group, had said in a video that Joshi has misguided the Supreme Court, who has ordered to stay the ban on the release of the controversial film Padmavaat in the four states - Madhya Pradesh, Haryana, Rajasthan and Gujarat. Gogamedi had also demanded the resignation of Union information and broadcasting minister Smirti Irani.

In Rajasthan, the film distributors and multiplex association have declared that they will not screen the movie, which stars Deepika Padukone, Shahid Kapoor and Ranveer Singh in lead roles. The film, based on the legend of Rani Padmini, a 13th century Hindu Rajput queen, mentioned in Padmavat, an Avadhi poem written by Sufi poet Malik Muhammad Jayasi in 1540, has been facing protests from various groups, for allegedly tampering with historical facts.

A noted lyricist, screenwriter and poet, Joshi has received the Filmfare Best Lyricist Award three times, in 2007 and 2008 and again in 2014 (Bhaag Milkha Bhaag). He has also received the National Film Award for Best Lyrics twice, for his work in Taare Zameen Par(2007), and Chittagong (2013). He was awarded the Padma Shri, India’s fourth highest civilian award, in 2015, for his contribution in the field of Arts, Literature and Advertising.

This is not the first time that a speaker has decided to stay away from the festival in view of threats by fringe groups. In 2012, acclaimed novelist Salman Rushdie had not attended the festival in view of security threats against him as hundreds of Muslim activists appeared in Diggi Palace, stating that they would not let Rushdie appear nor allow a video footage to be played.

The organisers as well as the Jaipur police had made appropriate arrangements for security and had earlier assured that nothing untoward would take place at the festival.

(With inputs from IANS)

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First Published: Jan 27, 2018 12:07 IST