Have you ever been in a situation where the existence of your city’s famous queen has been denied by the history, all of a sudden?
Before coming to rampant debate and protests of “THE PADMAVATI“, let us get over the malicious question
“Is Padmavati a real existing human creature or just an envisage?”
So, let us first admire the arguments questioning the life of “ever beautiful” Padmavati/Padmini:
- The earliest source to mention the Chittorgarh siege of 1303 CE is Khaza’in ul-Futuh by Amir Khusrau, who accompanied Alauddin Khalji during the campaign to the city. Khusrau makes no mention of any Padmavati or Padmini.
Most modern historians have rejected the authenticity of the legend on the basis of the omission of the queen in the works of Amir Khusrau. (slow claps to them)
- The Padmini Palace – Being from the city of the queen itself, I have always been told how The Padmini Palace was once the palatial abode of the exquisitely beautiful Rajput queen, Rani Padmini, the wife of King Rawal Ratan Singh. Rani Padmini Palace leaves behind the tincture of beauty, valour, sacrifice, honour, and tragedy of the past. Padmini Palace was the very legendary palace from where Ala-ud-din Khilji was permitted to obtain a glimpse of Padmini in a mirror placed in the main hall. Allured by her beauty, Ala-ud-din Khilji fought a fierce battle with Rana Ratan Singh, husband of Rani Padmini. (Who knew the “tharak” of a king in the past would lead to death threats to our beloved Padukone in modern times! *giggles*)
The palace that should have justified the entity of the queen instead adds to the melodrama. The palace has been dated to be a modern structure of around 1500 BC which is 200 years after the seizure of Chittorgarh by Khilji. Much to our surprise, the debate is somewhat simplified by the Karni Sena leader and also the claimed successor of Padmini’s family, Lokendra Singh Kalvi. He counters some historians theory that Rani Padmavati never existed by saying, “I exist, I am six feet four inches tall, and so Rani Padmavati existed as well.”
The question if Padmini, the queen that has volumes written over her beauty, really lived ever now lies in our wisdom and understanding of history.
Pulling the debate to the movie now here are the points that must have made to your subconscious these days via news channels, articles, social media etc.
The troubles for Padmavati started during the shoot itself, with Shri Rajput Karni Sena, an organisation of the Rajput community, damaging sets at Jaipur’s Jaigarh Fort and assaulting Mr. Sanjay Leela Bhansali in January. Vandalism followed at the shoot in Kolhapur in March. Other groups like Jai Rajputana Sangh joined the protests even as Information and Broadcasting Minister Smriti Irani kept promising a safe passage for the film. Protests were held earlier this month in Chittorgarh.
The Karni Sena claims the film distorts facts and hurts their pride and sentiments — the queen shown dancing without a ghoonghat (veil), allegations of an intimate dream scene between her and the villain of the piece, Allauddin Khilji. The filmmaker has clarified that the two characters don’t feature together in any scene.
A few weeks ago, the Karni Sena called for a ban on the film, threatening to burn down theatres and called a countrywide bandh on December 1, the film’s original date of release.
Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and Punjab have decided to disallow the screening of the film, even as it awaits certification from the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC).
A debate has been continuing on the sidelines about whether Rani Padmini was for real or just a figure of legends and myths. A figment of the poet’s imagination, not a historical entity and thus the director is allowed to take the artistic liberty over the fictional character (personally this has been a shock for me too). Meanwhile, the CBFC returned the supposedly incomplete application form of the film, with its chief Prasoon Joshi also citing the 68-day rule (films should be submitted to the CBFC at least 68 days before release).
THE OTHER FACE
According to a famous newspaper site, the “exaggerated” Padmavati conflict has a dirty face too. They say the raging debate on Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Padmavati is not about the content of the movie. The real story behind the protests by the Rajput Karni Sena originated from something else — clash of inflated egos. In an exclusive Facebook Live, the man who is leading the rally against the release of Padmavati, patron of Karni Sena, Lokendra Singh Kalvi said it all began with a rather trivial statement made by Singh during an interaction with the media when shooting for the movie was about to start. According to Kalvi, Singh, responding to a question whether he was playing the role of a villain in the film, said that he could go two notches beyond playing the role of a villain if he is given two intimate scenes with the lead female character in the film. Someone sent that clipping to Karni Sena in Rajasthan.
Singh’s old comment was not taken kindly by the Karni Sena patrons, and they sent e-mails and letters to Bhansali and Singh for clarification but didn’t get a response from them. Later an appointment was fixed for representatives of Karni Sena with the actor and director in Mumbai. Kalvi claims Karni Sena representatives flew to Mumbai, but the meeting never happened. Kalvi said, “I can imagine they are busy people. They could find time to meet our men only when they had to leave for Jaipur. Before leaving Mumbai, they (Karni Sena) told the makers that Bhansali was free to do what he wants to do with the movie, but he must not land in Rajasthan.”
Why does it matter?
A lot is at stake when it comes to the Padmavati issue. On the one hand is the perennial question of censorship. On the other hand, the response to the film from various quarters exposes the deep-seated patriarchal, conservative mindset to the depiction of women on screen.
The issue also brings to light the continued threats and censorship imposed by extra-constitutional bodies and States on films. Tamas, Ae Dil Hai Mushkil, My Name Is Khan, Vishwaroopam, The Da Vinci Code, Fanaa, Parzania, Aarakshan — the list goes on. It has always been up to the judiciary to come to the rescue of films. Even in the case of Padmavati, the Supreme Court on Monday dismissed a plea to stay the release and initiate criminal prosecution against Mr. Bhansali. It made it clear that it wants the CBFC to come to an independent and considered decision on certifying the movie.
What future holds for Padmavati is still in the dark but the number of visitors Chittorgarh Fort has witnessed since the debates have been enormous and an eye-opener that whether Padmini was real or reel doesn’t matter until she continues to teach lessons of sacrifice, love and bravery.
The debate can be easily summed up the famous lines of Devdutt Patnaik (who himself got into a fierce twitter battle for his “WISE WORDS” on the movie)
“Within infinite myths lies the eternal truth
Who sees it all?
Varuna has but a thousand eyes,
Indra has a hundred,
You and I, only two.”
And yes! Don’t forget to buy yourself an insurance in case you decide to watch the movie :p or take your girlfriend along in case the movie turns out to be disappointing.
- A future civil engineer in an affair with literature. Sports, books and mythology are my escaping routes from tragic world.