No Indian is unfamiliar with Rana Pratap and Rani Padmavati, who are iocns of honour and pride of their clans. Both of them are worshipped in Rajasthan and even in most of the regions of the country as divine figures. Rajputs are chivalrous and brave people, who fought against the foreign invaders and carry the pride of sacrifice. A Hada Rajput once told an Emperor, who asked for his horse, that a Rajput never parts with his sword, his lady and his horse. Before the Emperor could hold him, he jumped from the ramparts of the fort with his horse and an army of guards pursuing him could not capture him. Rajputs are also sensitive as they love their honour and self-respect. History is replete with Rajputs’ legendary anecdotes and heroic deeds. The name of Maharana Pratap is remembered by all Indians when chivalry and struggle for freedom is mentioned by anyone as he challenged the might of Mughal Empire under even though he had to suffer in wilderness.
Sanjay Leela Bhansali is a talented director of Bollywood, who has a record of creating world-class movies. But one does not know how he forgot the fact as to what happened to an earlier movie Jodha-Akbar, which too hurt the Rajput pride. In that case, it was not so grotesque attempt to insultingly present the scenario. But now he turned the story of Alauddin Khilji’s attack on the formidable fort of Rajasthan, which Raja Rattan Singh commanded, to commercially attractive proposition. In case of Padmavati, there have been attempts to tinker with history and hurt the pride of a chivalrous force, for which they are known to lay down their lives. The very honour has been smeared by a dream sequence showing Deepika (Padmavati) and Ranvir (Khilji) in romantic poses. There have been attempts to sell a movie on eroticism, which is considered to be nothing wrong for a film-maker to do so . But in this case, Bhansali attacked the core, i.e. the honour and chastity of the queen who protected herself by preferring self-immolation along with thousands of inmates of the fort at the time.
Many questions are being raised by so-called secularists that it is fiction, as nothing of this kind happened in history. I would quote following for such disbelievers: Malik Mohammed Jayasi mentions the story although it might be called fiction. Amir Khusro writes about attack on Chitaur fort by Khilji. Although he does not write directly about queen’s story, he mentions anecdote of Queen of Sheba, who allegorically could be compared to Padmavati.Khaza-ul-Fatuhla acknowledges Khilji attacked for the sake of Padmini. And Col Todd, who wrote the classic journal of Rajputs, Annals and Antiques of Rajasthan, narrates it.Todd greatly admires the character of Rajputs and says: “In devotion to fair sex be admitted as a criterion of civilization, the Rajpoot must rank high. His (Rajput) susceptibility is extreme and fires at the slightest offence to female delicacy, which he never forgives.” A British admiring the character of Rajputs in such adoration is worth commendation. Again the author gives extensive details of the war and fighting in Chitaur for Padmavati.
When Bhansali was picturising these clans, he should have sensitivity about how their women are treated and how a queen laid down her live to protect her honour and rejecting the life of debauchery. The director should have done an excellent job as he has track record for producing great masterpieces. But in this case, he faulted as compared to Baji Rao Mastano that was produced to pay tribute to Maratha pride. Padmavati should have received veneration and regard. It should have been a saga of pride and grace for Indians and Rajputs.
It seems objectionable scenes in the movie appear to have their genesis in commercial considerations in creating controversy as alleged in some quarters by showing parts of film without getting Censor Board certification. It is also disgusting to see that the controversy is raging all round but the film-maker is not calling the protestors and convincing them of his work. Only alternative in the face of massive agitation is to talk to protestors and clarify the doubts by eliminating the objectionable portions.
(The writer is former Chairman, International Airports Authority)
By N.K. Singh