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‘Don’t mask ‘masala’ as history’ says Mewar Royal on Padmavati

The upcoming movie Padmavati is surrounded by controversies. This time its Mewar Royal commenting on the movie's theme.

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Padmavati movie shot
Padmavati movie shot. Instagram

New Delhi: The drama and debates over Sanjay Leela Bhansali‘s Padmavati — the story of Rajput queen Padmini — has upset a direct descendant of the Mewar royal family. Baijiraj Trivikrama Kumari Jamwal, daughter of Mahendra Singh Mewar — the 76th Maharana of the Mewar dynasty and a former Lok Sabha member — is otherwise quietly going about her life as an English teacher at a school here.

But amidst heightened protests against Padmavati, which she has tagged an “inauthentic venture”, Trivikrama says it’s unfair that her family’s name is being dragged into generating “free publicity” for the film. “The sad part is that the film is getting free pre-release publicity and that a commercial and inauthentic venture like this is using my family’s name.

“It’s not just a question of incorrect portrayal, which is established from the trailer and the ‘Ghoomar’ song itself, but also the fact that you’re using my family’s name for the commercial pre-release publicity of your film, free of cost… And the national media is talking about it. That’s my problem,” Trivikrama told IANS in an interview here.

Bhansali’s Padmavati has been mired in controversy. The conjecture that it distorts history has led organizations like Shri Rajput Karni Sena and Sarv Brahmin Mahasabha to go up in arms against the release of the movie, while BJP leaders have been making statements and appeal to stop its release on December 1.

“That’s why I am so upset. People have political and commercial agendas. There’s nothing wrong with commercial enterprises and politics, but misusing and exploiting somebody’s pride, honor and dignity for such shallow purposes, that is where I step in and say, ‘Sorry, not acceptable’,” Trivikrama said.

The makers have maintained there is no dream romance sequence shown between the Rajput queen and invader Alauddin Khilji, as had been alleged by some. But a few political leaders and Jaipur’s former princess Diya Kumari have suggested Bhansali must show the movie to some historians prior to its release.

Trivikrama questions: “It depends on who the historians are because history is also colored. It has to be a well-represented congress of historians. He (Bhansali) should approach the most authentic voice, which is the family itself. That he hasn’t done.”

Her mother, Maharani Nirupama Kumari commented: “He has already made the film. What’s the point of showing it to historians now?”

To many, the story of Rani Padmini remains a mystery. What is the story Trivikrama has grown up with?

“If you go as a tourist to Chittorgarh Fort, you’re taken to Padmini’s Palace, and you’re shown a couple of mirrors. The tourist guide tells you about it and he points out a little pond and says she stood over there and Alauddin Khilji saw her face.

“But that is just packaging culture to sell to ignorant tourists,” she said.

Trivikrama said Rani Padmini finds a mention in “Veer Vinod”, a record book on Mewar’s history.

“It’s a historical record that shows yes she was there, she was the wife of Rawal Ratan Singh and she was only an excuse that Alauddin Khilji used to invade Chittor. The real reason was a very calculated military decision to invade,” she said.

“Padmini was not in the picture at all, except now what has been made into a tale, which is a figment of the imagination, I believe. It’s not there in history,” she said, pointing out that their family is one of the oldest families with an unbroken succession.

She estimated that there were over 30 generations between now and the first Jauhar — self-immolation led by Rani Padmini in 1303 during the siege of Chittor

What about the epic Awadhi poem Padmavati?

“Apparently, it’s a self-confessed piece of fiction. I’m ready to accept that you (Bhansali) have made a piece of fiction. But then don’t drag my family’s name into it and claim you’re the custodian of my family’s history,” asserted Trivikrama, a Ph.D. in English literature.

She said filmmakers are doing a lot in the garb of artistic license.

“Sure you have that, but then along with the artistic license, there should be artistic integrity and sensitivity,” she said, pointing out how the representation of Rani Padmini is “wrong” even in terms of dance and clothes.

“Instead of making it clear that it is Bollywood masala, you’re saying it is history and misleading and ‘miseducating’ the future generations.”(IANS)

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Surajpal Singh Amu: A case of Fatwa by Hindus?

BJP's Surajpal Singh Amu announced a reward roughly equivalent to $1.5 million to anyone who would behead Deepika Padukone and the film director Sanjay Leela Bhansali.

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Padmavati Banner
A man signs a banner during a signature campaign as part of a protest against the release of Bollywood movie "Padmavati" in Kolkata, India, Nov. 22, 2017. VOA

A leader of India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has announced that he would pay a reward roughly equivalent to $1.5 million to anyone who would behead an Indian actress and a film director.

Surajpal Singh Amu, a member of the BJP in northern Haryana state, is apparently upset about an upcoming movie, Padmavati, starring actress Deepika Padukone as the 14th-century Hindu queen Padmini.

The movie is directed by Sanjay Leela Bhansali.

Amu alleged that the movie is misleading, not based on truth and offends Hindu sentiments in the country.

FILE - Actress Deepika Padukone and director Sanjay Leela Bhansali attend the opening of the 13th annual Marrakech International Film Festival in Marrakech, Nov. 29, 2013.
FILE – Actress Deepika Padukone and director Sanjay Leela Bhansali attend the opening of the 13th annual Marrakech International Film Festival in Marrakech, Nov. 29, 2013. VOA

“We will reward the ones beheading them, with 10 crore rupees, and also take care of their family’s needs,” Amu said in an interview with India’s Asia’s Premier News (ANI) earlier this week.

Threats against movie

Amu also vowed not to allow the release of the movie and warned movie theaters to avoid playing the movie or risk being torched.

The movie was set to be released during the first week of December.

Rights activists have reacted strongly to the threats and urged the government to take action.

“This is pretty outrageous that you announce publicly and no action takes place at a time when people are being arrested for most trivial reasons in this country,” Gotum Naulakha, an Indian-based civil liberties activist, told VOA.

A security guard walks past a poster of the upcoming Bollywood movie "Padmavati" outside a theater in Mumbai, India, Nov. 21, 2017.
A security guard walks past a poster of the upcoming Bollywood movie “Padmavati” outside a theater in Mumbai, India, Nov. 21, 2017. VOA

An official complaint has been registered against Amu, but many are criticizing the stance of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party — which controls the central government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi — on the matter.

“I’ve not heard any official stance from the central government or the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting,” Vinod Sharma, an Indian-based analyst, told VOA.

Anil Jain, a local BJP spokesperson, told ANI that the law applies to everyone in the state of Haryana and no one can threaten others. The central government has yet to react, however.

Bollywood actress Padukone stood her ground and said the movie would be released despite the threats.

“Where have we reached as a nation? We have regressed. The only people we are answerable to is the censor board, and I know and I believe that nothing can stop the release of this film,” Padukone told Indo-Asian News Service (IANS) last week.

Controversy

Padmavati was controversial right from the start. Opponents of the movie stormed the filming of one scene and destroyed the film sets. They were upset that the director of the movie was distorting facts by alleging romance between the Hindu queen and the Muslim invader Alauddin Khilji.

Film director Bhansali, however, denies the allegations and maintains the story is based on a Sufi and medieval-era poem written about the Hindu queen. In the poem, the Hindu queen chooses death before the Muslim conqueror could capture her.

Some experts say the poem is centuries old and there is a possibility the Hindu queen might be purely a fictional character found only in folklore.

“There’s a lot of debate in India whether Padmavati was actually a living being many, many years ago or whether she was just an imagined person in a poem,” analyst Sharma said.

Rights activists maintain that if government fails to draw clear lines around the threat made by the politician, and discourage a growing sense of impunity for some, incidents like this will only increase and threaten the freedom of expression in the world’s biggest democracy.

“By letting loose and giving [a] sense of impunity to the goons of the ruling party or people who’re connected or close to the ruling party, we’re paving the ground for much bigger and [worse] things to happen in the near future,” Naulakha told VOA.

The movie is awaiting approval from India’s Central Board of Film Certification.

Written by Madeeha Anwar of VOA.

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History deformation: Challenging time for filmmakers in India

Film 'Padmavati' facing hostility from different parts of India

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Padmavati in trouble
In recent times, many films have faced opposition due to raising any topic that affects any section of the society. Twitter @FilmPadmavati

– Amulya Ganguly

November 21st, 2017:

At the root of the controversy over the release of the Hindi feature film “Padmavati” is, first, the saffron brotherhood’s interpretation of history with a pronounced anti-Muslim bias and, secondly, the Bharatiya Janata Party’s overt and covert attempts to whittle down institutional autonomy.

Even if the BJP’s seemingly political use of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) is a continuation of the practice of its predecessor which made the Supreme Court call the CBI a “caged parrot”, the party can be said to have broken new ground by letting vandals of the Hindu Right vent their anger against Padmavati and, thereby, undermining the authority of the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC).

In this case, too, there are precedents as when the Congress objected to the film, “Indu Sarkar,” because of its focus on Indira Gandhi. But the saffron offensive against Padmavati is making a greater impact because of the clout which the Sangh Parivar affiliates enjoy in view of their proximity to power.

It is obvious that if they are not checked, not only will the authority of the CBFC be diminished, but also the board will be wary in future of clearing films dealing with history or issues which are close to the Parivar’s heart. Politics will, therefore, virtually take over the board’s functioning.

What is more, the filmmakers themselves will be dissuaded from touching subjects which may be deemed sensitive and deal instead with safe, insipid topics. Such a state of affairs will be unfortunate at a time when Bollywood has been breaking away from the earlier productions with their song-and-dance routine and predictable storylines which were far removed from reality, except in a few exceptional cases which came to be known as the parallel cinema.

Not long ago, it was expected that the directors and producers will be able to breathe easily after the previous censor board chief, Pahlaj Nihalani, was unceremoniously removed so that he could no longer run amok with his scissors in accordance with his saffron whims, as in the case of reducing the duration of a kiss in a James Bond film or ordering 89 cuts in “Udta Punjab” or not clearing “Lipstick Under My Burkha” at all.

But any hope that the new board will be allowed to exercise its judgement in peace with the support of the Information and Broadcasting Ministry has been belied if only because the opponents of the idea of letting the artists pursue their craft unhindered are far too influential politically.

The decision about what the audience will be allowed to see is being taken not only by the self-appointed guardians of culture but also the ministry which has banned two films — “S Durga” and “Nude” — from an international festival in Goa apparently because the letter “S” in “S Durga” stands for “sexy”, which is too strong a word for bureaucratic ears, and “Nude” is out for obvious reasons.

While the rewriting of history books is proceeding apace with Rana Pratap winning the battle of Haldighati against Akbar on the pages of the textbooks printed in Rajasthan, the Hindutva storm-troopers are laying down the rules on how historical events are to be shown on the screen.

India has already seen the exiling of a reputed painter, M.F. Husain, who was hounded out of the country by saffron vigilantes who were displeased with his depiction of Hindu deities.

It will be a sad day if filmmakers, too, have to leave the country or shoot their films elsewhere, as in the case of Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children, which was shot in Sri Lanka.

The standard explanation for demanding cuts in the films is to ensure that the sentiments of the people are not hurt.

It was for this very same reason that Galileo had to disavow his thesis about the earth moving around the sun since such an assertion offended the feelings of the church and the laity in medieval Europe.

It took the church 350 years to apologise. There is unlikely to be anyone in the ruling dispensation or even in the opposition who will be courageous enough to say that the question of whether religious or cultural sensibilities are being hurt cannot be settled on the streets but should be left to the institutions to decide or, as a last resort, to the judiciary to determine with the assistance of scholars.

The saffron ire against “Padmavati” is apparently over the belief that the film will be unable to do justice to the heroic reputation of the queen of Mewar, a legendary beauty, who killed herself rather than be captured by the invading army of Alauddin Khalji.

Although no one, except the censors, has seen the film, the Hindu Right is patently unwilling to take the chance of an erroneous presentation. So the group has donned battle armour to save the fabled queen (real or fictional) 700 years after her death — this time from filmmakers — and is issuing blood-curdling threats against the director and the leading actress.

If accurately presented, the turbulent period of early 14th century Rajasthan can be the subject of a riveting drama. But whether cinema-goers will be able to see the film is still uncertain. (IANS)

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Sexual abuse is everywhere in the world, says Radhika

The actress believes that one should know how to say 'No'

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Radhika Apte's view on sexual abuse
Bollywood actress Radhika Apte says that sexual abuse is not only in B-town but in every part of the society. Wikimedia Commons

– Durga Chakravarty

Actress Radhika Apte feels that sexual abuse does not only exist in the world of showbiz but takes place in every alternate household.

“Sexual abuse takes place in every alternate household. So it’s not a part of just the film industry. You have so much child abuse, domestic abuse everywhere in the world, including India,” Radhika told IANS over phone from Mumbai.

She says it exists in “every field and household at some level or the other and that it all needs to be eliminated”.

Sexual abuse does not target just women, stresses Radhika.

“It’s also towards men, little boys and everybody. People exploit their power at every level.”

Radhika asserted that this needed to change.

“I think it starts from us putting our foot down and saying ‘no’ to things, however big your ambition is. You need to be brave about it, believe in your own talent, say ‘no’ and start speaking up because if one person speaks up, nobody is going to listen to him or her. But if 10 people do, then others would (listen to them),” she said.

The “Phobia” actress, who will be seen mentoring budding filmmakers in MTV’s upcoming digital show “Fame-istan”, says there has to be a more organised platform for people to work.

“There has to be more professional platforms as well as rules in place which is slowly happening.”

Sexual abuse has been a topic of debate in Bollywood and Hollywood. Prominent names from the entertainment industry are discussing how men in power take advantage of women in exchange for taking forward their dreams.

The sexual harassment saga started when a media house published a story in October revealing numerous accusations of sexual abuse against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein.

But why are no names taken in the case of casting couch in Bollywood?

“Because of fear, because people who have great ambitions are afraid. They think of what will happen to them if they take somebody’s name who has so much power. That’s what I am saying. Everybody has to speak up,” she added.

Radhika ventured into Bollywood in 2005 with “Vaah! Life Ho Toh Aisi!” and since then has explored genres like thriller, drama and adult comedy with films like “Rakht Charitra”, “Shor in the City”, “Badlapur”, “Parched” and “Hunterrr”.

Was it a conscious decision to act less in commercial entertainers?

Radhika said: “Nothing like that. You have to choose from the work that you have. You can’t say that ‘I want that’ if that’s not been offered to you. So, whatever is offered to you, you choose from that. You make your choice whatever you feel is going to be more challenging or something that inspires you or excites you.”

She says she makes her choices in the “spur of the moment” with whatever she feels intuitively. “I am not a very big planner.” (IANS)