The Ruckus Over Padmavati : You Can’t Ignore These Facts


Everything you need to know about Padmavati

There’s too much confusion going on about the content of Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Padmavati, starred by Deepika Padukone. There are good reasons on every side of the argument.  This is a classic example of fight between freedom of artistic expression and freedom to preserve one’s cultural heritage.

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Fiction. Really ?

The director Bhansali certainly has not seemed to claim too strongly that this  is entirely a work of fiction. In fact, he is busy trying to assuage people’s emotions.

If there is some reference to history, and the story is woven around it, with dramatic participation of certain historical elements, then it is no longer a work of fiction. It is distortion. So, let’s lose this ‘fictional account’ angle. There are characters in the movie that figure in history, so if there is dramatic participation of such characters in imaginary situations, that is distortion, even if that may be covered  in creative license.

The pesky thing about creative license is this – we cannot expect reactions to be calibrated, all accepting or all appreciating. Not everybody needs to draw Mohammed as a bomber to invite a fatwa. When involving histories of groups of people, their character as a collective, etc., there are bound to be some negative reactions to such groups in a work of artistic expression.

So for us to allow the storyteller to lean on historical fact for his leverage of history, while expecting the reaction s to focus on just the fictional part is just plain hypocrisy.

CBFC to be blamed ?

That does not make sense. CBFC cannot and will not check on historical inaccuracy. A movie just has to meet some criteria for it to be certified by the CBFC. None of those critieria involve historical accuracy and the certification process is exactly the same for all genres.

The director saying he and his team have worked hard for a long time and should get some sympathy is plain weak. Again, this is emotional. Movies aren’t some essential, life saving service. All professionals do work hard in their professions. But movies come to people for acceptance, appreciation, and most important of all, money! There is an impact of art on people. So if people have some concerns, they can be addressed, and should be.

Politically, even the Congress Party was against the release of “Indu Sarkar”, because there were fears that the depiction of Indu might paint them in a bad colour. The resistance they put up was weak, but there was resistance. The resistance against “Padmavati” is strong. There has been certain hooliganism activity somewhere, which is totally illegal, and needs to be checked. But, again, its not right to blame it all on BJP. It  would be foolish to think that government is somehow answerable to all potential future actions of small groups inimical to the contents of a certain movie!

Where does Deepika stands ?

The actress who played the role has every right to express herself, and the threat messages which she has received is ridiculous. But if that is stupid, not knowing how to address the ‘controversy’ is even more stupid. Again, if the actress thinks we should all be sympathetic to all her work of 2 years, she is entitled to seek such sympathy, but that doesn’t address the issue at hand. Hopefully, she got paid for her work, and she cannot claim material damage if the movie is not released. So, she cannot sue anybody for the movie not releasing.

What happens now ?

The issue is one of confusion – is this a fully historical, however twisted and moulded, or entirely fiction? If it is entirely fictional, then there cannot be dramatic participation of historical characters in the narrative. If it is historical, then there are automatic implications of having to be accountable. It is because this industry needs to bank on silly controversies to ramp up its popularity.

The subject and handling of the movie I am least concerned about, because the cornerstones of what define a genre and what lines are drawn between genres  lies remarkably ignored. Similarly, there are hardly quantifiable things like pride, and sentiment, but India’s laws broadly prohibit causing disharmony through any sort of expression. Movies are expressions. So this nonsense of asking for allowing all kinds of expressions under the blanket of freedom of expression is foolish.

In my view, Viacom 18 is going to lose money on this one, and it will be the last big grand picture they produce for a while. This kind of ruckus caused by content positioning confusion is just not worth a business risk.



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