The beginning of the protest
Almost a year ago, Rajput organizations began causing trouble for the movie. Karni Sena destroyed movie sets at Jaigarh fort in Jaipur. They also destroyed costly film equipment, and the incident stopped the shooting of the movie for a few days.
Later, in March 2017, Rajput groups claimed that there is a dream sequence where Rani Padmini and Alauddin Khilji will be seen being intimate. So, in order to protest that the sets of the movie in Kolhapur’s Masai plateau were vandalized during the night. Sanjay Leela Bhansali then issued the statement clarifying that there is no romantic sequence in the movie between Rani Padmini and Alauddin Khilji.
This did not end the controversy. It escalated as the poster of the movie was released. The poster gave the first look of Deepika Padukone as Rani Padmini. This was followed by protesters from Karni Sena burning the posters of the movie in Jaipur, and shouting slogans against Bhansali.
November Rain of Controversies
In November, as the date of release came closer, the protests heated. To take advantage of the steam generated, political parties jumped into the fray as the elections in Gujarat were just around the corner. The Karni Sena demanded that the movie be shown to them before its actual release. BJP — the ruling party in poll-bound Gujarat — decided to write to the Election Commission, CBFC, and the Modi government to temporarily hold the release of the film for allegedly hurting the sentiments of the Kshatriya community.
Protests intensified in Rajasthan. In Chittorgarh, hundreds of people came onto the streets to protest the movie. They observed a bandh in the city of Rajasthan. Roads were blocked across the city and all schools, markets and medical shops were shut down as a part of the strike.
The Producers felt the heat. The Release was postponed by the Viacom18 group on 19th November. Finally, as expected, on 28 November, the Supreme Court dismissed the petition filed against the release of Padmaavat. The apex court said that the CBFC considers all aspects before granting a certificate to any film and, therefore, the court should not intervene in the CBFC’s jurisdiction.
Even after Supreme Court’s decision, the protests did not stop. In Sirsa, Bhansali’s effigy was burnt by members of the Rajput community. Member of Mewar’s royal family, Maharaj kumar Vishvaraj Singh, wrote a letter to I&B minister Smriti Irani and censor board chairperson Prasoon Joshi to withhold the certification of the film.
Uttar Pradesh’s Rajput leader Abhishek Som promised to give Rs 5 crore to the person who beheaded Sanjay Leela Bhansali and Deepika Padukone. “Anyone who brings the head of Sanjay Leela Bhansali and Deepika Padukone will be rewarded with Rs 5 crore. Rani Ma Padmavati had sacrificed her life with 12,000 other women in mass immolation (Jauhar), and Bhansali has raised a question on her courage by showing her in bad light in his film,” he said. As death threats became normal and in response, the Maharashtra government provided security to Bhansali.
CBFC and tweaking of film
Later, the CBFC sought the opinion of two veteran historians from Jaipur on Padmavati by inviting them to view the film. These historians included Professor BL Gupta and Prof RS Khangarot. After their considerations, CBFC clears Padmavati with minor modifications, a new title, and a U/A certificate on December 28th. CBFC asked for five cuts and a change in the film’s title, from ‘Padmavati’ to ‘Padmaavat’. The makers have also been asked to add a disclaimer stating that the film does not glorify the banned practice of Sati.
Even after those cuts, the Mewar royal not happy with changes suggested by CBFC. Mewar royal family member Vishvaraj Singh said that cosmetic changes, like changing the title Padmavati to Padmavat, would not change the facts.
A few days after CBFC cleared it with a U/A certificate, the makers officially confirmed that the film will hit the screens on 25 January.
Banning in BJP states
Even after creating all the chaos over almost nothing, Karni Sena’s demand to band the movie wasn’t over. They prompted the makers of the movie to come out with a full-page ad that made clear that the movie is a work of fiction, and that it celebrated the bravery of the Rajputs.
Despite clearance by CBFC, Padmaavat was banned in BJP states. Rajasthan, MP and Gujarat announced a ban on Padmaavat’s release. Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, hinted that the ban placed on the movie in November would continue. Padmaavat’s status remains unclear in Uttar Pradesh and Himachal Pradesh. One thing was clear that they would passively oppose the release.
A little respite as Goa and Punjab government cleared the movie. In Goa, the police wrote a letter to the state government asking to ban the film. Goa chief minister Manohar Parrikar instead confirmed that Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Padmaavat would be released in the state. Punjab chief minister Amarinder Singh also said that Padmaavat will not be barred from screening. “Anything can be shown in Punjab as long as it does not hurt religious sentiments,” he said.
Supreme Court removed the ban
Padmaavat makers challenge ban in Supreme Court. The Supreme Court removed the ban. Padmaavat was set to release across India on 25th January.
Even after the decision, Karni Sena chief issued statement on Supreme Court’s order. Karni Sena on Tuesday (23 January) said that it was “disheartened” with the Supreme Court dismissing pleas to ban the release of Padmaavat, with its Chittorgarh unit chief claiming that over 1,900 women have signed up for “jauhar” are “ready” to commit mass immolation.
Why the we should be shameful?
Padmaavat is not the first and it won’t be the last. CBFC and Supreme Court are as much responsible to protect Indian culture and history as Karni Sena and other rightist groups are. In fact, they are more responsible. Creating chaos and issuing threats is not a way to glorify a community. The most shocking thing in this drama is the support they are getting from public. It’s really shameful that the notion of public has changed to mere fickle minded crowd with no mind and moral of their own. Let’s see if controversies will end or will they escalate.