Recently, I was returning from Jaipur. At 5 am in the morning, I saw Mr. Lokendra Kalvi, supreme leader of Karni Sena, at the railway station. He was coming to Delhi NCR region. We travelled in the same compartment. I sat a few seats away from Mr. Kalvi. Despite his age, Mr. Kalvi was standing ramrod straight. He had confident stride and was self assured. A few people came to touch his feet in the platform. He was gracious to bless them in Indian style and talked to them. Inside the train, when ticket checker asked for an identity, Mr. Kalvi did not throw his weight around, showed his papers. In general, I found Lokendra Kalvi to be a reasonable man who was at peace with himself.
Now from the deeds of Karni Sena in recent times, it is hard to explain with a leader like Mr. Kalvi, how can position of Karni Sena be so unreasonable? Time and again group members have been found to shout out opposition in TV debates, threaten actors and directors of film with physical violence, vandalise public property in defiance of Supreme Court order, stone a bus full of school children and try to set it on fire. To top it all, group had hired a lawyer in Mr. A P Singh to Singh virtues of Rajput pride and Rajput women like Rani Padmavati. It must be remembered that it is the same Mr. A P Singh, who had represented rapists in Nirbhaya rape and murder case. After losing the case in the supreme court, Mr. Singh had famously claimed, “If my daughter or sister engaged in pre-marital activities and disgraced herself and allowed herself to lose face and character by doing such things, I would most certainly take this sort of sister or daughter to my farmhouse, and in front of my entire family, I would put petrol on her and set her alight.” It is ironical that Karni Sena has chosen a misogynist to sing virtues of Rajput women.
Till date, I have not understood what is the objection of Karni Sena towards Padmavat(i).
Is this antipathy is rooted in a sense of personal affront to Mr. Kalvi, that director and producer did not consult him while writing the script? Mr Kalvi had declined to watch the movie. He was seen to comment what would I say about a movie. I do not even understand English language. It seems there is a sense of hurt in being ignored. But no one is admitting such a thing.
Alternatively, is the outrage represents a more global affront to Rajput pride and sentiments? Without going into arguments around existence of Rani Padmavati and benevolence of Alauddin Khilji, it has been reported from time to time that Rajput Karni Sena is angry about a dream sequence between Rani Padmavati and Alauddin Khilji. The scene it was believed to have show a romantic affair between Khilji and the queen. Director had denied existence of such a scene. Even if the scene is there in the film, it is Alauddin’s dream and not that of Rani Padmini. Can a person not have a dream about subject he desires and can a director not take liberty to think of such a sequence?
There was a discussion on a dance sequence in the film. Rajput groups have claimed their women, let alone queens, do not dance in open court like that shown in the film. We do not know how Rani Padmavati acted more than 800 years before. Rani Padmavati is eulogised for her bravery and her desire to die than to give up her honour. Still, unlike Meera Bay, another queen from the same lineage a few generations later, Rani Padmavati was no saint. Could a queen not dance in inner palace in the presence of ladies? Can a director not take such a liberty to show a sequence?
In the movie Rajput king and people have come out looking good. Rajputs have been shown to defend their fort and honour but eventually lost. This is history. We cannot change this history. But we can act and behave in such a way that future historians discuss us in a better light.
As a sign of sanity and apparent maturity, Karni Sena has decided to make a film on mother of Sanjay Leela Bhansali. The idea being, if mother of Rajput people is being insulted by Sanjay Leela Bhansali, Karni Sena would insult Bhansali’s mother. I find the move childish because for a successful film, one has to have a target audience that may be able to enjoy or relate to sequence of events. Life of Mrs. Leela Bhansali is otherwise indescript. Why would anyone like to watch it? But that is Karni Sena’s choice. They should resort to doing anything they feel like in a peaceful manner
Meanwhile, I think our governments have a lot to learn how to uphold rights of people who cannot defend themselves from organised gangs like Karni Sena and many other similar groups. If we start taking objection to every scene and sequence in movie or a story, then in a culturally rich and diverse nation like India no one can make a movie on the life of a personality from past. Along the same line, in the west, the move “Last Temptation of Christ” had shown fight of Jesus Christ with lust among other things. This movie was released all over the world. Only in France there was an explosion where 13 people were injured. In rest of the world, film went on peacefully.