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Dangerous suspense: the curious case of Padmavati

Sebastian Sunny | Updated on: 1 January 2018, 19:23 IST


The curious case of film ‘Padmavati’ is seemingly getting curiouser and curiouser. The period drama by Sanjay Leela Bansali, slated for release initially on December 1, finally received a U/A certification from the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) in the last week of December but the protests against the film, especially from a section of Rajput community, is continuing unabated. With every move by the beleaguered film team, more issues are popping up and that is what exactly happened with the CBFC decision to refer the film to a panel of experts and then announce its certification.

The curious part of the Padmavati related developments is the way in which the film was cleared by the CBFC even when a majority of the panelists, specially chosen to view the film and give their opinion, were yet to see the controversial movie. And again, those who saw it, like Arvind Singh Mewar, the scion of the former Mewar State, did not approve it. The leaders of the Rajput Karni Sena, which is spearheading the public protest against the film for reasons of alleged distortion of history, have warned against the release of the film in theatres.

Now the issue is:  what was the logic of setting up a panel if the opinions of all panelists were not to be heard? The patron of Karni Sena, Lokendra Singh Kalvi, points out that the clearance was given by CBFC even when six out of the nine members of the special panel constituted to view the film did not watch the film.

“CBFC chairman Prasoon Joshi invited me in December-end to watch the film in Mumbai.  I told him that I was leaving for Dubai on a vacation and would be back only by January 2,” Rajendra Singh Khangarot, one of the historians chosen by CBFC, told Catch News. “As I did not see the film I did not give my opinion. I don’t know who all saw the film but if it is cleared for screening I don’t have a problem with that,” Dr. Khangarot, Principal of Jaipur’s Agarwal College and author of books on Rajasthan’s history, said.

“I have nothing against the film as such or the producer. If it is alright with society at large, I too won’t have any issue with it,” Khangarot added even as he expressed the view that it would be too early to assume that the matter would end here. “It is a compromise. Let us see how it works,” he noted.

“Yes. I saw the film. ’teek hai’ (It is alright)” was the response from Chandramani Singh, another Jaipur-based historian. “Overall I think the film is OK.”  Dr. Singh, formerly advisor to Jaipur’s Jawahar Kala Kendra, however confessed that she is not familiar with films in general. “I saw Padmavati and I was seeing a film after years. I don’t go to cinema halls or even keep a television at home,” she confessed.  

Not that every historian in Rajasthan who is in the know of Rajput history is so passive about the issue.”I stand by what Arvind Singh Mewar said after watching the movie. ‘The whole film is foolish’”, argued theatre person and historian, Ranbir Sinh. “The film Padmavati has lots of interested parties involved. There are many stakeholders in this Rs.150 crore movie,” he noted. “What is going on about Padmavati is baffling. We know who has invested the money. We know the Central government is interested in its release. The Rajasthan government, which banned the movie even without consulting historians and experts, is now silent. What is all this game about? ” Sinh, also the working president of Indian People’s Theatre Association (IPTA) asked.

Sinh was of the view that changing the title, ‘Padmavati’ to ‘Padmavat’ is not going to make any difference as long as the theme and treatment remain the same in the film. “As long as the film has the characters of Padmavati, Alauddin Khilji and Rattan Singh and the backdrop is Chittorgarh it is going to  be one and  the same,” he asserted. “The funny part of the characterization in the film is that anyone who knows this part of the history would object to the portrayal of Alauddin as well. It is so bizarre,” he pointed out.

In the end ‘Padmavati’ film is more like a “riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma,” as Winston Churchill mentioned in 1939 about an entirely different subject in a wholly different background—about the enigmatic policies of then Russia.

In the case of ‘Padmavati’, as many film lovers and critics alike ask, “What do they really want? What are they really waiting for?”  “They” here include almost all the main protagonists of this rather sordid drama—the film maker, actors, the protest groups and politicians. There has been already a death in Jaipur in connection with the film and many other acts of violence.   Will there be an end to this dangerous suspense?


First published: 1 January 2018, 19:23 IST