In the wake of the controversies associated with the film, Padmaavat, the nation has witnessed arson protests which magnified by the time of the release.
The film tells the story of 14th-century Hindu queen and a Muslim ruler. The film is an adaptation from 1550 Malik Muhammad Jayasi’s epic poem Padmavat, a historic fiction about the siege of Chittor by Alauddin Khilji.
It all started a year ago when scores of Karni Sena members vandalised the sets of Padmavati (movie’s initial name) in Jaipur around mid-March. Since then followed a raging debate over the controversial content in the film without even knowing what the script is about.
Slowly, the protests, destruction and vandalisation of public property had spread all across the country. There were agitations in many pockets of north India. Threats to destroy theatres which displayed the movie and uncontrollable attacks on the public who went to watch the movie were made. A man climbed up a mobile phone tower in Bhilwara district of Rajasthan with a bottle of petrol demanding a ban on the film.
The extremes of the protest were actually witnessed in recent video showing school children and teachers put through an ordeal as a school bus in Gurgaon was attacked by the protestors. Interestingly, all these episodes occurred despite Supreme Court’s decision to go ahead with the release of film.
What were the objections?
Firstly, according to Hindu literature vigilantes, few of the concepts shown in the film are incorrect. For example, the mirror scene, where Alauddin Khilji sees Rani Padmini for the first time in a mirror, which according to the protestors is not the truth.
What further sparked the protest was an intimate scene shown between the Muslim ruler and Chittor queen Rani Padmavati or Padmini who is a respected figure in the Rajput community in a song sequence. The scene was later deleted.
The next trigger was the ‘Ghoomar’ song in which the queen is shown dancing in public, which again was inappropriate as the queens never danced in public but watched others dancing.
Prof. Lokendra Singh Chundawat, head of the history department at government PG college, Chittorgarh, Rajasthan explained the significance of Rani Padmini in Rajput. “Rani Padmini wife of Maharawal Ratan Singh, ruler of Mewar kingdom from 1302-1303, had done ‘jauhar’ to protect the Rajput honour and did not surrender to Alauddin Khilji who had then surrounded Chittor. This was the first ‘jauhar’ in 1303 out of the three conducted in Chittor, other were in 1535 (Bahadur Shah of Gujarat besieged Chittor) and 1568 (ruling of Akbar). While the men had committed ‘saka’,” she said.
Although NCERT history textbooks also narrate an extract from Jayasi’s Padmavat book in which there is a mention of the mirror scene. “Jauhar Smriti Sansthan has repeatedly written letters to bring it to notice that history textbooks are portraying the wrong history. The first letter to omit this section and rectify the fact sent to the authorities of state and the Central government in 1956 and then in 1993. However, it went neglected. These objections made by historians then had not come into the light, due to lack of diversified media presence,” said Chundavat.
As reiterated by scholars and writers on gender studies, women have become a socio-culture emblem in the society. What is missed amidst these protests and the opulent film is the glorification of ‘jauhar’. Women committed self-immolation because they did not want to surrender themselves to any ruler.
“Women’s only lesson in her life has been how to establish, acquire and preserve the honour of the family and society. If they find any threat to their honour, they must resort to self-immolation. So, if a woman is silent about the domestic violence, she is preserving the family’s honour. Whereas, anyone who voices out injustice she becomes a ‘bad woman’ in the society,” said Kota Neelima, author, and journalist.
In one of Neelima’s article, it is mentioned that ‘often when women survive, it is not because they revolt but because they surrender.’
Giving a finding, Neelima articulated that in 2011 census of Rajasthan, it was reported that from 2001-10, over five lakh girls between the age group of 0-10 years were missing. However, these issues are of least concern to the groups protesting for women’s honour. Somehow, a sudden evocation of Hindu pride and glorification of women’s honour has erupted hitting the conscious minds of our country. Interestingly, the real problems of the nation like unemployment, agriculture crisis and economic crisis etc have been sidelined.
Although, director Sanjay Leela Bhansali has faced similar attacks on his periodic films earlier; however, whether these attacks are for free publicity of the film or not is a matter of doubt. But, this time it seems his strategy of free promotion has certainly backfired and the consequences are not good.
Somewhere, in the debates of intolerant India, sensitivity among people has been lost. Be careful, India!