Bollywood director Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Padmavati, based on the life of Rajput queen Padmini has been embroiled in quite a controversy.
The release date of the film was postponed as the Bhansali and lead actress Deepika Padukone received death threats from the Karni Sena.
Deepika was given police protection following a bounty that was placed on her head for approximately £500,000 by a member of the political Samajwadi party. This bounty was increased last week by a member of India’s Hindu nationalist ruling party, BJP, offering £1.13m to anyone who beheads Padukone and Bhansali.
The situation took a deadly turn when reports surfaced that a body was found hanging at a Nahargarho Fort near Jaipur today, with messages that threatened: “Padmavati ka virodh” (opposition against Padmavati) and “Hum putle nahi jalate, latkate hain (We don’t burn effigies, we hang them).”
The incident was first considered to be a suicide but the message has the authorities confused.
The Indian Certification Board also refused to certify the movie for its Indian release and several states such as Rajasthan have already banned the film, despite there being no legal basis for doing so.
While talking to Hindustan Times, Indian censor board’s Anurag Srivastav said Padmavati makers had submitted an “incomplete” application.
He said: “The disclaimer had not been mentioned by the makers. We need an official thing from the makers about what your stand on this actually is. Is it based on fiction, or based on historical facts – you have to put it completely. By leaving that out, the document was (considered) incomplete, because for examination purposes, we need to know what they (makers) are saying.”
However, the British Board of Film Classification classified the film for its UK release with a 12A rating. Word spread as the classification implied that the UK would get to see the film before India, and a threat was made against UK cinemas on Indian national television.
A Karni Sena leader went on Republic TV and said: “We will go to an international court and call for the film to be banned. I call on my Rajput brothers and Hindus in the UK to protest against screening the film there … I would have even gone myself to the UK but let me tell you, whichever cinema screens the film will be burned.”
The Rajput Samaj of UK has scheduled a demonstration outside the Parliament in Westminster on Sunday to protest against the clearance of the film for distribution and exhibition in the UK.
Several Bollywood actors including Shah Rukh Khan, Alia Bhatt, Twinkle Khanna, Madhur Bhandakar, Javed Akhtar and Shabana Azmi have expressed their outrage regarding the situation.
The Indian Films and TV Directors’ Association (IFTDA), along with 20 other bodies of the film and television industry, is also planning a 15-minute blackout in support of the film and “to protect the right to freedom of expression of creative individuals”.
Confirming the plan, Ashoke Pandit of IFTDA said, “We will keep showing our support for Padmavati and Bhansali because it is the basic right of a creative person to tell a story in his own way. Sanjay is a responsible filmmaker, and making a film on history is not something easy for him but a big responsibility. To express our solidarity (with the film), we are gathering on Sunday for a 15-minute blackout where all shooting units in Mumbai will put off lights and no shootings will take place.”
Padvamati also starres Shahid Kapoor and Ranveer Singh in lead roles.