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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
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– 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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Was Alauddin Khilji Really The “People’s” King?

Alauddin Khilji, the one who resisted Mongol invasion in India, was he a plunderer and killer?

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Some historians say Sanjay Leela Bhansali's Padmavat did not do justice to the character of Alauddin Khilji, who apparently, was a good ruler.

By Sagarneel Sinha

Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s film Padmavat, which was earlier named as Padmavati has been in the news for the last few months. There are theories by some historians that Bhansali’s film is not doing justice with the character of Alauddin Khilji, the Delhi Sultan who was regarded as the most powerful ruler of the Khilji dynasty. They say that the film portrays Alauddin Khilji as a bad king who rather was a good administrator! To justify themselves they cite the example of Khilji defeating the Mongols invaders to India several times. And they say that Alauddin Khilji introduced new tax reforms for the well being of the people.

Alauddin Khilji was one of the most powerful rulers of the Khilji Dynasty. Wikimedia Commons
Alauddin Khilji was one of the most powerful rulers of the Khilji Dynasty. Wikimedia Commons

 

  • It is true that under the reign of Alauddin Khilji, several attempts of Mongol invasions were thwarted. But does this example give a proof of Alauddin Khilji being a good administrator? Absolutely not. It is very important to mention that Alauddin Khilji ascended to the throne of Delhi Sultanate by killing Jalaluddin Khilji, the then Delhi Sultan. Alauddin was the nephew and son-in-law of Jalaluddin and the latter used to love the former as his son. Despite his uncle’s love, Alauddin after pretending to greet his uncle killed him in 1296 AD, which shows the hunger for power. Alauddin did not even hesitate before killing his beloved uncle!

ALSO READ: ‘Padmavat’ producers move SC against the ban by some states 

Many historians and intellectuals of our country hail Alauddin as a “people’s ruler” and one of the “greatest ruler” to ever sit on the throne of Delhi. But if the writings of the then Muslim historian Amir Khusro’s are read, then one would come to know the true colors of Alauddin Khilji. It is to be mentioned that Khusro was the court poet in the Alauddin’s court and recorded Alauddin’s wars and administrative services. Many cite the presence of Hindu chiefs in Alauddin’s court as an example of his tolerance. But according to Khusro those Hindu chiefs who bowed their heads before Alauddin were only favored. So, it is very much clear that retaining Hindus as chiefs was not a sign of Khilji’s tolerance but was due to the fact that those Hindus had bowed before him!

There is also a debate whether Rani Padmavati is a historical character based on Khusro’s recordings of the 1303 AD Chittor conquest by Khilji. It is true that the name Padmavati doesn’t find its place in Khusro’s writings but he mentioned an important recording from the Chittor conquest. After Chittor was captured Khusro’s recordings say that Khilji ordered a massacre of 30,000 local Hindus. It is also said that Khilji married Hindu queen Kamala Devi of Vaghela and the relationship was more than above politics. However, truth is that she was captured by his army by defeating the Vaghela king Karna and later she had to marry Alauddin Khilji; it might be she had no option!

Tomb of Alauddin Khilji in Qutub Minar, Delhi. Wikimedia Commons
Tomb of Alauddin Khilji in Qutub Minar, Delhi. Wikimedia Commons

If historical records are checked properly, one would find Khilji’s numerous committed atrocities on the Hindus. His army plundered several Hindu towns. When his army attacked the kingdom of Vaghela, the Hindu towns including the famous Somnath Temple of Gujarat were plundered. In around 1299/1300 AD there was a mutiny near Delhi by some of the Mongol soldiers, after the generals forcibly tried to extract a loot from them. In result of this, Alauddin’s administration not only brutally punished the soldiers but also punished the mutineers’ families, including killings of children in front of their mothers. According to Muslim historian Ziauddin Barani, the practice of punishing wives and children for the crimes of men started with this incident in Delhi. The so-called “good” ruler Alauddin as according to contemporary Persian historian Wassaf, was that the Sultan was motivated by religious enthusiasm and his army massacred people for the sake of Islam.

(Wassaf said this while describing Alauddin’s 1299 AD Gujarat campaign).

Alauddin and his generals destroyed several Hindu temples during their military campaigns. These temples, other than Somnath included that of Bhilsa, Devagiri, Vijapur, Jhain, Chidambaram, and Madurai. There are many records of loot committed by Khilji’s generals and his army. Under the most trusted general of Alauddin Khilji, Malik Kafur, the Delhi army looted a large number of treasures, elephants and horses from Dwarasamudra and Pandya kingdom, which Ziauddin Barani described as the greatest loot since the Muslim rule in Delhi!

The coins that were in circulation under the Khilji dynasty. Wikimedia Commons
The coins that were in circulation under the Khilji dynasty. Wikimedia Commons

ALSO READ: Everything You Needs To Know About The Ban On ‘Padmaavat’ Movie and It’s Review

After checking the historical records, nowhere it is found that Alauddin was a “good” ruler! The so-called “people’s king” and his army is recorded for committing plunder in the history that also by the then Muslim historians! It is said that he introduced tax reforms in this country. Obviously, he did start large-scale reforms. But if Ziauddin Barani and Amir Khusro’s records are checked, then one would come to know that the new reforms introduced were mainly due to Sultan’s desire for targeting the Hindus by depriving them of their wealth and property. The Sultan’s land tax called Kharaj allowed extraction of the peasants’ surplus amount by the ruling class. These records contradict the fact that the reforms were introduced for the well-being of the people! Most importantly Alauddin was not the first ruler to introduce tax system in this country! Around 1500 years before his reign, Arthashastra, the book which deals with government, economics, market, trade, laws, and ethics were written by a scholar named Chanakya. The book was not only influential in Indian history but also in the Asian history. Most importantly the book talks about a fair tax system which should be convenient and easy to pay and also the text states that the King and his administration should ensure security and welfare for the people. All these contradict with Alauddin and his administration.If Mongols were known for their cruelty then Alauddin Khilji was not less than Mongols, where the latter was a destroyer of people’s wealth and property. Alauddin Khilji was never a “good” or “people’s” ruler as glorified by some historians and intellectuals of our country!

The writer lives in Tripura, India. Twitter @SagarneelSinha