Most in the Indian film industry have protested after Sanjay Leela Bhansali was slapped in Jaipur during shooting of his film Padmavati. Shooting was disrupted, the crew was manhandled with and some equipments were broken.
An outfit called Rajpur Karni Sena started it. Then other outfits like the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and the Hindu Sena jumped into the row seeing an opportunity to score political mileage. Many other fringe elements saw greener pastures in getting parasitic here.
Anyway, the episode looks like a closed chapter now as Sanjay Leela Bhansali and the Rajput Karni Sena have reached to a settlement with a written agreement and Bhansali has assured that his film will not have any objectionable scene/
Bhansali’s film Padmavati is based on the 13th Century queen Padmavati or Padmini who, according to Malik Muhammad Jayasi’s 16th Century epic poem Padmavat (written in 1540), had committed suicide in an act of mass-immolation along with many other women of Chhittorgarh seeing impending defeat and capture by the forces of Allauddin Khilji of the Delhi Sultanate. Attackers alleged that some intimate and therefore objectionable scenes were being filmed between the characters of Rani Padmavati and Allauddin Khilji. For them it was like playing with history and people’s sentiments,.
The assault on Bhansali was outrageous and it left people outraged. Many pointed out that the whole drama was irrelevant as Padmavati was a fictional character created by Jayasi for his epic poem. Historians say we find no mention of Padmavati before 1540 when Jayasi came up with his creation. In that sense, characters of Padmavati is similar to Anarkali and Jodha Bai, the unreal characters of history made larger than life by cinema and by folklore.
But Padmavati or Rani Padmini was real of fictitious is not the issue here. When it comes to the legends that have become part of our folklore, people go by sentiments and not logics.
The characters in our folklores become part of people’s lives. People grow up listening to the stories of their valour and principles. Many of us even imbibe them. These legends who have been there for centuries have become part of our bedtime stories, our traditions, our imaginations. Many of us get attached to them sentimentally as we just saw in Jallikattu’s case. It happens more in traditional societies. And whenever questions are raised over such legends or they are painted in some negative light, people react logically, and not sentimentally.
Karni Sena or VHP or Hindu Sena, they all exploit these sentiments to get those desperate validations for their existences that they otherwise find hard to get. Their identity, their politics, their existence, everything is based on this lifeline only.
Distorting history or manipulating historical facts for creative freedom or to add drama to an otherwise flat storyline is done all across and is a hotly debated issue, be it Hollywood’s Schindler’s List or Gladiator or Argo or other such productions or our own Jodhaa Akbar or Bajirao Mastani (Bhansali’s last film) or even 1982’s Gandhi that was an international production.
Schindler’s List, Gladiator, Argo, Gandhi and many other films alleged for distorting history have emerged as milestones of the world cinema and have gone on to win Oscars. Even back home, despite all their controversies, Jodhaa Akbar and Bajirao Mastani were commercial successes.