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Celebrated filmmaker Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s yet to be released magnum opus 'Padmavati' has created nationwide controversy. While his critics are attacking him for committing ‘historical mistakes’ and presenting a queen in bad light, his supporters are defending him for making an excellent film on a fictitious character.
I have three serious objections to what Bhansali has done.
(1) Whether Padmavati was a historical character or a figment of poet Jayasi’s imagination, the fact is that lakhs of people believe that she really existed and along with thousands of women committed suicide by jumping in fire to save their honour. No one, not even a celebrated filmmaker or a story writer, has right to hurt sentiments of people in the name of creativity and freedom of expression.
(2) Even if she was a fictitious character, no one who has any respect for Indian traditions would accept that a queen will dance like a dancing girl, for entertainment or for the sake of art. Was Padmavati or Rani Padmini known for dancing? Such films should not be allowed. If such films are encouraged, tomorrow someone will make a film on Ram and Sita and and show Sita dancing. Someone may make a film on Rani Lakshmibai of Jhansi and show her performing a dance before Dalhousie. Will Indians accept such an attack on their faith and respect for Sita and Rani Lakshmibai?
Will Bhansali or any other brave filmmaker have courage to take such liberty if he makes a film on the life of Prophet Mohammed? Will any one make a film that hurts the sentiments of Muslims?
(3) My most serious objection is that the film has encouraged caste system by making the Rajasthan Rajputs conscious of their caste. Caste-based organisations should be starved of issues and made irrelevant. Unfortunately, there are opinion makers who provide excuses to caste-based organisations to become active. In my opinion, they are doing great harm to the society. If politicians are doing caste-based politics and thereby dividing the society on caste lines, people like Bhansali are encouraging caste-based organisations.
November 18, 2017