Padmavat Protest : Blurred Line Between Fact and Fiction

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.

4 thoughts on “Padmavat Protest : Blurred Line Between Fact and Fiction

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  1. Question raised by you is very pertinent Sir. Freedom of speech and artistic expression needs to be preserved and propagated if our democracy has to function smoothly. Article 19(1) guarantees it. But there is some caveat also, in article 19 (2) of the constitution, which says that govt may impose reasonable restriction on freedom of speech and expression on the basis of various conditions; maintaining law and order is one of such conditions.
    Government of various states has imposed the restriction on screening of the film (majority of them were ruled by BJP) based on this provision, but it was quashed by Honorable Supreme Court. I think after SC has given the ruling, its the duty of the state to uphold the order of the SC, but still if the government becomes ineffective in preventing the riots, arson, stone pelting or other kind of disruptions, then the government has no right to continue its term. Hope the desire of political gain should not drive the government to relinquish their constitutional and moral duty.
    In recent days there is increasing trend of protesting against the Court’s order (Remember Jallikattu, Cracker Ban in Diwali, Ram Rahim case etc.) If this trend will continue, then God save the World’s Largest Democracy!

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    1. True. Full majority governments of Haryana, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan should have shown more character. Haryana is a habitual offender. States have to come out of Election mode and take some decision that is for greater common good. Karni Sena may have legitimate grouse. But they cannot vandalize and engage in arson once Supreme Court has ruled against their plea.

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      1. How they can come out of election mode, when there is an election every now and then and each election is termed as quarter final, semifinal etc. to the General Election. To some extent, the election process has to be amended. The debate around “simultaneous election” is in correct direction, but there will be more politics around it. Anyway, here the issue is preservation of freedom of speech and expression, that matters the most.

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