Padmavati is a fictional high caste Hindu queen from Rajasthan, portrayed in an epic called Padmavat by a 16th-century poet Malik Muhammad Jayasi. It described how a Muslim emperor attacked a Hindu kingdom smitten by the beauty of its queen and glorified the queen Padmavati who committed Sati (suicide to protect the honor) to protect her chastity.
The country currently is taken by storm regarding a film originally named “Padmavati” directed by celebrated director Sanjay Leela Banshali which starred Dipika Padukone as Padmavati the queen.
Hindu fundamentalist groups and a Rajput Caste organization, Karni Sena allege that the movie depicts an intimate romantic scene between Padmavati and Muslim invader Alauddin Khilji. This claim has been denied by the producers of the film, stating that there is no such scene in the film.
Although, historians have pointed out that Jayasi’s epic ballad about a Muslim ruler attacking a Hindu kingdom infatuated by the beauty of Hindu queen was written in the 16th century, more than 200 years after the actual historical event took place. They also mentioned that the folklore about Padmavati have also socially problematic as it glorified Sati, a Hindu custom originated some 700 years ago, which encouraged widowed high caste woman to burn herself after her husband was defeated in battles. The custom was out-lawed in 1829 by the British rulers after a movement by the Indian social reformers.
The recent protest, however, showed that Padmavati is still held as a symbol of female honor among Rajputs even today.
What are the main allegations by the Hindu groups against the film?
Hindu groups are protesting against a rumored scene where the Muslim king is dreaming of getting romantic with the Hindu queen. It has enraged groups like the Rajput Karni Sena, a caste group in Rajasthan, who have called the film to be banned. The film’s scheduled release before the Gujarat State election was stalled by the BJP government.
The caste group disrupted the shooting, slapped the director Bhansali on the set of the film earlier, vandalized cinemas and threatened to behead Bhansali and chop off Padukone’s nose. It held protests in the BJP governed states like Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, and Haryana. Even the Rajasthan chief minister Vasundhara Raje has said that the film should not be released until necessary changes are made so that sentiments of any community are not hurt.
Bhansali, the director pleaded time and again, saying the controversies are all due to a few rumors, but his pleas have fallen on deaf ears with those who want to protect the “honor” of a fictitious queen!
While many have expressed shock over the open threats daggered against an actress and the director.
What the historians and scholars have to say?
Scholars and historians have thrown their full weight behind Bollywood’s filmmaker and actors and protested vociferously against the ban on the film demanded by the Hindu groups. According to them, it is absurd that a movie based on a fiction has caused such violent reactions. Eminent historian Irfan Habib of Aligarh Muslim University said that Padmavati has no historical base, it is only an imaginary character.
Liberals and progressive intellects have reacted in an opposite way by saying that, Muslim emperor Khilji showed in a distorted fashion in the movie as a meat-eating, deranged brigand. Others complained that the film glamorizes and valorizes a feudalistic custom where a macho and patriarch society demands women voluntarily burning themselves to protect the so-called “honor”, should have been questioned but instead, it’s the other way round.
In the wake of a nationwide protest against the violence expressed by the Hindu fundamentalists the government finally gave the green signal to release the film but only after changing its original name from Padmavati to Padmavat. Although it seems ridiculous to change the name of a movie to subside a controversy, it is not the first time that it had happened.
However, even after getting a certificate from CBFC and a new release date, Padmavati (now Padmavat) continues to face the anger from Rajput Karni Sena. They said that Rajputs cannot be fooled by changing the title of the film and mere modifications cannot justify the defamation of their goddess queen of Chittor Padmavati.
The mega movie which stars Ranveer Singh, Deepika Padukone and Shahid Kapoor was given a clean cheat by the Central Board of Film Corporation with five minor modifications. However, now, Rajput Karni Sena has completely rejected the film and demanded that the film should be banned nationally. The film has already been banned in the states of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, and Himachal Pradesh. The chief of Shri Rajput Karni Sena, Lokendra Singh Kalvi, cleared their stand at a press conference in New Delhi by saying that, they will put up a “Janata curfew” across the country to prevent the screening of Padmavat.