Mark Twain quite genuinely once wrote, “It is by the grace of God that in our country, we have those three unspeakably precious things: freedom of speech, freedom of conscience and the prudence never to use them.”
The kind of protests and hostility that has been seen for the screening of Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Padmavati, one feels that it might also meet the fate of umpteen controversial or banned films like — Garam Hawa (1973), Aandhi (1975), Kissa Kursi Ka (1977), Bandit Queen (1994), Fire (1996), Kama Sutra — A Tale of Love (1996), Black Friday (2004), Parzania (2005), Water (2005) etc — unless an accord accrues in the days before its release. Nevertheless, it is a sensitive issue, no matter what the Rajputs or the ones on the opposite side think and must be dealt with in a matured way.
Last year, protests against Bhansali's film, Padmavati, began from Rajasthan where, in a rather ugly and atrocious turn of events, members of Karni Sena, the self-styled upholder of Rajput honour, physically assaulted the filmmaker by slapping him and ransacking the film sets at Jaigarh Fort, owned by the royal family of Jaipur.
The issue then was a dream sequence where Khilji, the Karni Sena alleged, is shown romancing Padmavati, hurting the sentiments of the Rajput clan. What is quite interesting is that Alauddin Khilji has been cast negatively by Bhansali. In an earlier TV serial, he had been shown as a maniac and senseless man despite his excellent market economy controlling price hike and defiance against certain parameters of Shariat.
As if this were not enough, Thakur Abhishek Som of Sardhana Chaubisi, who claims affiliation to the Samajwadi Party, announced a bounty of Rs 5 crore on the heads of Bhansali and Padukone for “wrongfully portraying” queen Padmini.
What are these protests against Padmavati for? The leftists think that freedom of expression, at any cost is the ultimate concern. It means that the attempted destruction of a people’s faith and deeply treasured symbols are not? This is the perversity of post-modernism which seeks the right to destroy and deconstruct selectively — and give that right a sacred status, as was done by Sanjay Bhansali.
Clearly, the principle of freedom has to be practised within some rationale and egalitarian framework. Baijiraj Trivikrama Kumari Jamwal, daughter of Mahendra Singh Mewar (the 76th Maharana of the Mewar dynasty), maintains that the controversy is generating “free publicity” for a malicious film.
Strangely, as the Congress supporters are all against Karni Sena taking this to be the BJP's electoral vote bank and communalisation ploy, most Muslim ulema of India support Karni Sena comparing it to the kind of assault that had been there by the westerners on Prophet Muhammad or on Tipu Sultan in India.
According to him, Padmavati is Bhansali’s professed tribute to the valour and sacrifice of Rajput queen Rani Padmavati. Various Rajput organisations have demanded the movie’s release be stalled and have threatened the director and the film’s lead actress Deepika Padukone.
Rajasthan chief minister Vasundhara Raje has written to information and broadcasting minister Smriti Irani, urging her to ensure that the movie is not released without necessary changes. Even Prasoon Joshi, the chief of the CBFC (Central Board of Film Certification) expressed his grouse about the screening of the film for some journalists and TV channels without the censor certificate.
It is true that making films that call a spade a spade, exposing stark realities and raise questions not spoken openly in our social setup, have been a tough task for the filmmakers. While many controversial films were banned or dragged to court. Some made it through the hard-hitting times and went on to have a lasting impact on the audience.
It goes without saying that Bollywood has now come a long way in dealing with testing and trying topics like — extra marital sex, live-in relationships, terrorism, communalism, racism, marital rape, homosexuality etc besides others.
While on the other hand, these filmmakers, despite knowing the seriousness and consequences of the subject of caricaturing a character (even if it were fictional), perhaps (knowingly or unknowingly) wanted to provoke a reaction. That reaction has been provoked. But along with the right to speech should also be clubbed the right to conscience as all the adherents of various faiths have an unwritten consensus to mutually respect each other’s historic personalities and faith.
(Courtesy of Mail Today.)