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Dear Vasundhara Raje: What do you plan to achieve by banning Padmaavat?

You might stop the release of the movie in cinema halls, but how will you stop it from being telecast on TV a few months later.

 |  6-minute read |   15-01-2018
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To HH chief minister of Rajasthan

Dear Ms Scindia,

It has almost been five years since you occupied your current post with a resounding majority. More so, it has been a couple of decades since you entered the arena of public service and vowed to uphold and protect public interest. Thus, technically you should not need any reminders by laymen as to how best you should do your job. However, your conduct with regards to the film Padmavati (now without an I), coerces me to write this open letter.

Quite recently, you declared that the movie will not be allowed to be shown in your state because it "hurts emotional sentiments", "distorts history" and "compromises with Rajput pride and honour". This line of argument, ma'am, is not just frivolous but also derogatory to the people of your state and unbecoming to the dignity of the office that you represent.

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At the outset, let me state that I am neither a Bhansali fan nor a Bollywood enthusiast and therefore I bear no personal interest in defending the film. In fact, its release or non-release makes absolutely no difference to me. But listed here, ma'am, are a few things which genuinely concern every right-thinking (and not right-oriented) citizen of this glorious country:

1) The conception of a ban

In this day and age, I wonder where the brilliant idea of instituting a ban on the film came from. Was it your cohort of advisers who recommended this course of action or was it a personal decision? Because whatever it was, you must know it is doomed from the very beginning. You might stop the release of the movie across cinema halls, but how will you stop it from being inevitably telecast on television a few months later? Even if you somehow manage to do that, how will you put an end to the movie being viewed on the internet? On the one hand, you want to portray yourself as the harbinger of a modern age by aiding internet penetration to the remotest of corners, while on the other hand, you want to drag an already ailing state to an era so primitive that even Neanderthals might refuse to live in it. How do you reconcile technological progress with ideological backwardness? In other words, if you really think that banning something is the way to prevent its spread, you are not just highly mistaken, you are being utterly befooled.

2) The 'hurt' sentiments

It was strange, if not awkward, to see someone of your stature, cite "hurt sentiments" as a reason to withhold the film's release. Which sentiments are we exactly talking about, ma'am? The sentiments associated with a Queen who possibly lived 800 years ago? A queen, who during her lifetime, did not seek, want or require any sort of protection? A queen who chose to immolate herself instead of bowing down and giving in to pressure?

Is that really the queen you want to protect? Someone who has survived for centuries without the self-declared moral vigilantism of the Karni Sena? Let me take this opportunity to tell you, ma'am, as to when "sentiments" are really hurt.

Sentiments are hurt when you have no objection to letting a known offender like Mr Lalit Modi escape. Sentiments are hurt when people are lynched in the name of cows and the state takes no action whatsoever.

Sentiments are hurt when you brush corruption scandals under the carpet in order to protect your government. However, no sentiments can ever be hurt by a medium that is merely meant to entertain.

3) Distortion of History

The third issue you put forth, dear chief minister, was that the film was being banned because it went around fiddling with historical facts and thereby ended up distorting history. Well, here are a couple of things to ponder upon: In the case of Queen Padmavati, the lines between history and mythology are so blurred, that it becomes increasingly difficult to separate one from the other. If you go by the available sources, she was clearly a figment of Jayasi's imagination. However, if you go by folklore, she was as real as Rama or Krishna. Even if her probable existence is accepted, do you really think that her story, which has stayed relevant for centuries, would be distorted because someone made a film on it?

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Mr Bhansali must really have superhuman powers to be able to destroy what even time, war and subjugation could not. Let me tell you what "distorting history" truly means. History is distorted when a man like Dinanath Batra is employed to alter school textbooks. History is distorted when those who accomplished nothing except pleading to the British for an early release from jail are branded "Veer" while those who sacrificed their lives for the country are questioned for their intent, purpose and character. History is also distorted, dear ma'am, when photo-shopped images and fake news stories are carefully planted on social media to discredit former prime ministers with the singular aim of securing political brownie points.

Maybe, Ms Scindia, it hasn't come to your notice yet, but the royal families who seem to find the film so hurtful to their pride and honour, constitutionally do not exist anymore. Sardar Patel thankfully ensured that. The Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) has already done great harm to a democratic country by "inviting" them to sanction the film. You, however, are inflicting a greater damage on the diverse fabric of this nation by placing the whims of a few over the interests of the many.

This ban isn't exactly about sentiments or distortion. It is only about feeding the egos of a bunch of self-certified guardians of history, who are fortunate enough to command a strong vote bank and thus decide which way the tide turns. Whether you admit it or not, you are quite aware ma'am that by legitimising the fringe, you have actually created a monster which will poison the very existence of free speech in this wonderfully expressive and artistically rich nation.

I sincerely hope that you emerge out of the shadows that you've conveniently hidden yourself behind and saddle up to be the person you were actually elected to be - a fearless and visionary chief minister.

Yours truly A concerned citizen.

PS: Turns out you aren't alone. Mr Vijay Rupani, the new chief of Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh chief minister Mr Shivraj Singh Chauhan (Vyapam-fame), have also hopped on the bandwagon. With this, three large states of India have been pushed down the bottomless pit of darkness and ignorance by the very people who were chosen to lead them towards knowledge and enlightenment.

Welcome to the 21st century.

Also read: Mukkabaaz is Anurag Kashyap at the height of his powers

Assembly Elections 2018
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Akil Bakhshi Akil Bakhshi @akil_bakhshi

An idea, wavering on the precipice of imagined obscurity and obvious glory.

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