Ever imagined that a movie, a work of art, could be criticized by all schools of thought in India alike? No? But that’s what Padmaavat, the latest magnum opus of director Sanjay Leela Bhansali has managed to achieve. Heavily panned by the Right Wing, especially the anarchist Karni Sena before the release, and taken to the cleaners by Left Wing, especially the feminists after release, Padmaavat is one curious case that can be rightly termed as the watershed moment in the history of Indian cinema. How and why this movie turned out to be one of the most controversial films ever in the history of India, is something that must be analyzed to the depth.
The commotion about Padmaavat (then Padmavati) started with an attack on the sets in a fort of Jaipur, where Sanjay Leela Bhansali was heckled and thrashed by members of Karni Sena, which claimed to represent the Rajput community in Rajasthan.
They were apparently miffed by the alleged distortion of historical facts that Sanjay Leela Bhansali was to involve in the making of this movie, which included an over the top glorification of the antagonist, Alauddin Khilji and an absurd possibility of a dream sequence, involving Alauddin Khilji and Rani Padmavati. How and why this dream sequence bit leaked remains a mystery till date. Maybe someone from the production team leaked it to get some post release buzz but this buzz was soon to give rise to the biggest anti-film movement in recent history.
The assault on Sanjay Leela Bhansali divided people into two groups, none of them ready to budge. The left Wing and almost the entire cabal of mainstream Bollywood backed the crew of Padmaavat, while the other camp, led by politicians and people of the right wing, protested the possible release and the foul play surrounding Padmaavat.
The fears of the Right Wing were not completely unfounded either, for Bollywood is well notorious for passing off atrocious fables as history, be it ‘Asoka’, or ‘Mangal Pandey: The Rising’, or ‘Jodhaa Akbar’, or even ‘Bajirao Mastani’. People of the right wing feared that Sanjay Leela Bhansali would do the same with Rani Padmini that he did in Bajirao Mastani by making a Peshwa dance to a ridiculous Malhaari, a Peshwa Queen dance with a common courtesan and reduce one of the best Military Generals in the world to a heartbroken lover. Besides, the filmmaker had already made an Anglo-French opera on the same topic, which depicted Alauddin Khilji as a lovelorn Sultan, out to achieve his beloved Padmaavat, something which is not only ridiculous, but also dangerous to depict, given the high esteem of the Rajput community of Mewar. That was why the right wing was particularly skeptical.
The left wing cabal resisted the Right Wing onslaught. Sushant Singh Rajput dropped his ‘surname’ in protest, Anurag Kashyap and Shabana Azmi went to the extent of branding Hindus primarily the Rajputs, as ‘sponsors of Hindu Terrorism’.
Hindu extremists have stepped out of twitter into the real world now.. and Hindu terrorism is not a myth anymore
— Anurag Kashyap (@anuragkashyap72) January 27, 2017
Karni Sena in the meantime went full retard and went to the extent of brandishing swords on live television, announcing rewards for getting Sanjay Leela Bhansali beheaded and cutting off the nose of Deepika Padukone. The left wing responded by calling Rani Padmini a mere figment of imagination.
Sensing the volatile nature of politics surrounding it, and the upcoming municipal elections, the Central Government withheld the release of Padmaavat, while the Censor Board of Film Certification refused to certify the film, since a copy of the same was not submitted at the prescribed date, i.e. at least two to three weeks before the original release date, i.e. December 1.
The CM of Uttar Pradesh Yogi Adityanath sprang up a surprise. Not only did he clear the movie for a release in the state, but also he assured every cinema hall owner, as well as the cinema goers, that he wouldn’t let the vandals have their say if the movie is released.
When the legal authorities cleared the docks for the release of Padmaavat, the Karni Sena now detached from their own stance of opposition and resorted to the tricks only the Left Wing is too familiar with: Vandalism. Only a few days before the movie hit the silver screens, the Karni Sena went on a rampage, breaking public properties, burning buses, and attacking schoolchildren as well
Surprisingly, when Padmaavat finally released in the theaters, it was the left wing, that was once vociferously backing the movie, now came out against the film, bashing Bhansali and the people involved. Reasons? Here are some of them:-
• Portraying Rajputs as epitome of idealism
• Presenting Alauddin Khilji as a ‘barbaric’ savage, who is lustful as well as monstrous in his deeds
• Demonizing the Muslims
• Showing Rajput women as oppressed folks
• Glorifying ‘the regressive’ practices of Jauhar and Sati
Swara Bhaskar accused Sanjay Leela Bhansali of misogyny. She went to the extent of trivializing the trauma of a rape victim, with this atrocious statement ‘There’s a life after rape!’. Ironically, one of the best retorts came from the side of Deepika Padukone, who said that Miss Bhaskar probably ‘went out for the popcorn and missed the disclaimers.’
Left Wing’s grounds for attacking Bhansali were equally absurd and hilarious. Alauddin Khilji was misrepresented, just because he was a Muslim? To such folks, this was Alauddin Khilji, not some braveheart like Abdul Hamid or APJ Abdul Kalam, who should be humanized, even glorified to an extent!
The Left Wing Film Critics accused the film of Misogyny too. As per Anna MM Vetticad, a known film reviewer and a feminist, Bhansali couched regressive, opportunistic messaging in exhausting visual splendor.
All in all, Padmaavat became a test case worth remembering, for any enthusiastic movie buff. No film has managed to upset both the Left Wing and the Right Wing alike. There is also a hidden message in the controversy for the adherents of both schools of thought. Right Wing should exercise caution, patience and need to be little more watchful. We (tfipost.com and The Frustrated Indian) share the blame too, because we weren’t too kind on Bhansaali either. And The left wing should be a little…well…more tolerant. As Shakespeare puts it, It is easy to teach 5 pupils, but difficult to become one of them and follow your own teachings. Dear Left wing, please be tolerant and allow other views to prosper too.