By banning Padmaavat, the Rajasthan government has undermined its authority

YasheeJan 08, 2018 | 23:04

By banning Padmaavat, the Rajasthan government has undermined its authority

Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s lavish drama will finally hit the screens on January 25.

After months of protests, threats and uncertainty over its fate, Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s latest, lavish drama will finally hit the screens on January 25, in its new avatar as Padmavat.

The movie, which had set off a political theatre of leaders trying to outdo one another in safeguarding Rajput pride, has been certified by the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC), and viewed by a “special panel to add perspective to the final decision of the censor board’s official committee”. 

The censor board said The censor board said "suitable modifications" to the song ghoomar.

This committee consisted of Arvind Singh from the royal family of Udaipur, historian Dr Chandramani Singh, and professor K K Singh of the Jaipur University. 

The CBFC suggested five modifications to the movie, including the name change to clarify that it was based on a work of fiction and not history, suitable changes to the song Ghoomar keeping in mind that Deepika Padukone, on whom the song is picturised, is playing a Rajput queen, and a disclaimer that the movie in no way glorified the practice of Sati.

These painstaking steps were necessitated after months of violent protests spearheaded by the Rajput Karni Sena, which has taken into its head that the movie is an affront to Rajput pride without having viewed it.

However, all the efforts by the censor board were proven inadequate, as Rajasthan has still refused to allow the movie to be screened.

Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje in a media release on Monday said Padmini was “more than just history for us”, and that the “martyrdom and sacrifice of Rani Padmini was an honour for all of us and it would not be allowed to be hurt”.

Does the CM distrust the censor board? The board has watched the movie, Raje has not. The CBFC was well aware of the protests and anger surrounding the issue, and is likely to have taken all precautions to ensure the film does not hurt the sentiments of any community. Does Raje believe the board to be incompetent, or malicious?  

Or does the state government fear violence and disruption of law and order, as Karni Sena has not softened its stand against Padmavat and has a history of vandalism? If that is the case, it is the government’s duty to reign in such elements, not bow down to them.

The Karni Sena is a Rajput community collective, which has to its credit protests against another movie, Jodhaa Akbar, fueling caste-based rivalries in colleges in Rajasthan, violent protests at the 2014 edition of the Jaipur Literature Festival, and providing general vandalism services for money.

This is the group whose “feelings” Raje is prioritising, over the decision of a Constitutionally-appointed body and the opinion of experts.  

On January 8, Sena member Mahipal Singh Makrana had demanded that the names of the characters in the movie be changed. He had also demanded the resignations of CBFC Chief Prasoon Joshi, Information and Broadcasting Minister Smriti Irani, and Minister of State for Information and Broadcasting Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore.

Will Raje show the same solicitousness in meeting these demands of the Sena?

Rajasthan is set to go to polls in 2018, and Raje’s government has been facing protests from farmers, and over a contentious ordinance that would have shielded corrupt government servants, and sought to bar the media from naming a public servant pending government sanction for the probe. The Padmavat issue thus obviously has more to do with politics than sentiments.

However, by caving in to the demands of a shady fringe group with a violent track reocrd, the government is setting a dangerous trend.

Every time one set of “hurt sentiments” is allowed to decide the fate of a movie, other such sensitive groups find encouragement.

Not long agao,  Karan Johar had to cut a deal with MNS goons – with Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis acting as broker - before his film Ae Dil Hai Mushkil starring Pakistani actor Fawad Khan could be released. Shah Rukh Khan faced protests because his Raees featured the Pakistani actress Mahira Khan. The Maharashtra Navnriman Sena recently took offence to Salman Khan’s Tiger Zinda Hai as it was allegedly eating into the screen-time of Marathi movies.

The Rajasthan government is yet to bring to book those responsible for vandalising the sets of Padmavati, physically assaulting Bhansali, and threatening to cut off Padukone’s nose and Bhansali’s head.

A man even died during the protests – on November 24, the police had found the body of a 24-year-old man hanging off the parapet of Nahargarh Fort with the words "Padmavati, hum sirf putle nahi latkate (Padmavati, we hang not just effigies)" srawled on stones nearby.

However, instead of reigning in those responsible for such violence, the government has followed a policy of appeasing them.

Raje would do well to remember that by allowing groups like the Karni Sena a voice in its decision-making, she is undermining not just her own office, but also the Constitution of India, from which both her government and the CBFC derive their authority.

Last updated: January 21, 2018 | 12:02
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