Padmavati & A Dull December: The Enduring Conflict of History & Entertainment

By | December 6, 2017
Padmavati - Legal Bites

THE BACKDROP

The sad news is that people are going to witness a dull December this year with the Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s epic drama “PADMAVATI” release date getting deferred (the initial release was scheduled on December 1, 2017). Padmavati has an ensemble star cast of Deepika Padukone donning the role of Padmavati, Shahid Kapoor as Maharaja Ratan Singh and the husband of Padmavati and Ranveer Singh as the 13th century barbaric Muslim invader Sultan Alauddin Khilji.

Very recently, there have been widespread protests against Bhansali’s Padmavati especially in Rajasthan and some other neighboring states of Rajasthan in North India. What all this brings at the end of the day is the intermingling of an epic historical movie embroiled with unnecessary contemporary regional politics. The Padmavati controversy is still yet to boil down and what’s so wrong with the movie that protesters are against it even before its release? Some say Padmavati’s director Bhansali has ‘distorted historical facts’ while others claim that ‘there’s a romantic dream sequence between Sultan Alauddin Khilji and Rani Padmavati’. Some people even went to the extreme end of saying that ‘Padmavati showcases the Rajput Community in a bad light’.

These are just mere verbal statements and pre-conceived notions by some sections of Rajput communities especially the Shri Karni Sena group and other protesters but the truth can be known to the people only after watching the film in its entirety. Amidst all this, the director Bhansali and the leading lady of the film Deepika Padukone have been receiving extreme threats from fringe members of the Karni Sena group to either “burn the actress alive” and “behead Bhansali for distorting historical facts”.

HOW WELL DO WE KNOW OUR HISTORY?

Skimming through the pages of history, Rani Padmavati (also known as Padmini) was a legendary 13th-14th century Rajput Queen of Chittor and the second wife of Chittor Rajput Ruler Ratan Sen (also known as Ratan Singh), the last ruler of the Guhila dynasty in present-day Rajasthan. A bitter incident which leads to the banishment of one of Ratan Sen’s musician and court minister ‘Raghav Chetan’ on charges that he practiced black magic and was an evil sorcerer. As a result of this banishment, Raghav Chetan wanted to avenge Ratan Sen sulking his humiliation. He directly made his way to Delhi to incite the Sultan Alauddin Khilji to attack Chittor.

Subsequently, Raghav Chetan impressed the Sultan with his music skills and slowly glorified Padmavati’s beauty after gaining the Sultan’s trust and confidence. After Khilji became curious about Padmavati’s beauty, he despatched his soldiers to fetch Rani Padmini to him. But according to the then prevailing Rajput customs and traditions, it was not permissible to show a woman from the Rajput community to a ‘Stranger’.

But on the request of Ratan Sen and fearing the wrath of the Sultan, Ratan Sen sent a word to the Sultan that he could see Padmini only on the reflection from a mirror to which the Sultan agreed. When the Sultan came and saw the reflection, he was immediately obsessed with Padmavati’s beauty and became determined to secure Padmini for himself.

When the Sultan gave orders to Ratan Sen to send Padmini to his harem, Ratan Sen refused and subsequent incidents inviting Ratan Sen for a meeting with the Sultan resulted in Ratan Sen’s getting captured by the Sultan at Delhi. A strong message was sent to the military generals of Chittor that in order to have Ratan Sen back, Padmini was to be surrendered to the Sultan. The Chittor generals hatched a plan to bring back their King and accepted to send Padmini to the Sultan. They sent a message that Padmini wouldn’t come alone but will be accompanied by her female servants in many palanquins. The Sultan acceded to the request. Padmavati - 4 - Legal Bites

But the actual plan was that instead of female servants, many brave Rajput soldiers were placed in the palanquins who would immediately attack the Muslim soldiers and rescue Ratan Sen. In reality, the plan worked and the Rajput soldiers were able to rescue Ratan Sen after heavy losses and escaped to Chittor along with Padmini. But unfortunately, they weren’t able to attack the Sultan because he was heavily guarded by his strong Muslim generals.

When Khilji came to know about the murderous plan hatched by the Rajputs against him, he became furious and prepared for a full battle. The Khilji’s army laid siege to the fort of Chittor in the year 1303. Though initial attacks were resisted by the Chittor army, a gradual decrease in the necessary supplies for food forced the Rajput men to face the Muslim army.

The small Chittor army along with their King faced Khilji’s army resulting in a decisive victory for Khilji and was marching forward to capture Chittor. When news reached Padmini regarding the defeat and death of Ratan Sen and the approaching Muslim army, she along with her 16, 000 companions and other children committed “JAUHAR” (the act of mass self-immolation).

It was a then custom among the Rajput womenfolk to commit Jauhar to protect their honor against Muslims to avoid capture, enslavement, and rape in the hands of a victorious enemy. When Khilji breached the Chittor fort, his victory was empty as he could only find the ashes and bones of dead women and children. After this incident, Khilji died thereafter after a decade.

This is the most accepted real-life account of Rani Padmini in history. But some other historians even argue that Khilji never confronted Ratan Sen or Padmini and though he conquered all of North India, the incident of Khilji laying siege to the Chittor fort seems to be exaggerated. They further argue that Khilji’s expansionist policies were mainly towards the Deccan kingdoms to plunder and loot their wealth and this exaggerated encounter of Padmini and Khilji was never recorded in history.

But the most referred source of this incident was based on the poem of Malik Muhammad Jayasi’s Padmavat which eventually formed the basis of Bansali’s Padmavati.

WHY THIS POLITICAL DRAMA?

Rumours are even doing the rounds that these protests were a response to the coming elections in 2019 and regional and local leaders wanted to gain huge momentum to garner support from the dominant caste communities, for instance, the Rajputs in Rajasthan. Additionally, there was no good reason for substantiating the postponement of Padmavati if not on political grounds. The question is not about the hordes of people who are out on the streets demanding the heads of movie stars behind Padmavati but the real HISTORICAL AWARENESS that has gone into our heads.

Ours is a society deeply rooted in ancient customs, practices, and traditions particularly Hinduism. Moreover, Sultan Alauddin Khilji is seen as a barbaric invader who has invaded that very HONOUR of Hinduism which resulted in the death of legendary queen like Padmini. Moreover, the Padmavati row has become the perfect stage for radicalization not only affecting the integrity of the movie as a whole but also the inspiration of Bansali who is greatly associated with this epic drama.

LEGAL ENTANGLEMENTS FOR PADMAVATI?

The major reason why Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Padmavati got delayed is the rigid stance of the Central Board of Film Certification {CBFC} against the movie. The CBFC has said that it rejected the certification for Padmavati for two reasons: 1. The movie did NOT have a disclaimer at the beginning that all the events depicted in the movie are fictional. 2. When the movie was submitted for the second time by the makers after necessary changes, it was rejected again on the ground that it failed to meet the 68 day deadline as every movie has to be submitted to the Board 68 days before the release date and Padmavati didn’t clearly meet the deadline.

That said, the 68-day rule is often never adhered either by the Board or by the makers as had happened in the case of Fukrey Returns. But though other movies have been given certification by relaxing the 68-day rule, Padmavati has never gone through that disruption. There has been a strong resistance from the CBFC for the release of Padmavati fearing the law and order disruption that the movie would create. Though there is some relief for Padmavati fans when the Supreme Court rejected pleas for the ban of Padmavati movie, it also said that the decision to make any changes is a matter between the makers of Padmavati and the Censor Board.

After the deferred initial release date of Padmavati, the makers of Padmavati haven’t officially announced a new date for Padmavati following continuous protests. Already, Padmavati has become a huge controversy and the film has been banned in the Indian states of Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan even before the CBFC certified the film. Karni Sena - padmavati - Legal Bites

WHAT’S IN STORE FOR PADMAVATI?

Padmavati is caught in a complex web of historical, legal and contemporary regional political drama. Whether Bansali who came up with the idea of making Padmavati or Deepika Padukone who donned the powerful role of Padmavati aren’t the persons to be blamed or questioned but these protests and incidents drive home one point: Would any Indian director make films on controversial facts of history?

It is a common question to every Indian who has forgotten history or has understood history in the wrong way calling it “distortion”. The fate of Padmavati hasn’t been resolved yet. Patience and Perseverance have to win the battle. But for HOW LONG?

At last, Hail Rani Padmini and her companions for their Supreme Sacrifice of preserving Rajput honor!!!


– Lokesh Kumar Mavilla

Content Writer @ Legal Bites


Related Links

1) The Padmavati Mystery – Controversy Continues

2) Rajput Queen: The Symbol of Purity

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