After Arnab Goswami, journalist Rajat Sharma has come to the defence of Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Padmavati, which has been facing protests and threats of violence from Bharatiya Janata Party leaders and right-wing groups for its exploration of events in fourteenth-century Rajasthan.
The historical, starring Deepika Padukone, Ranveer Singh and Shahid Kapoor, is aiming for a December 1 release. “After watching the entire film, I can emphatically say that there is not a single dialogue, not a single scene, not a single sequence that can be said to go against the proud history of the Rajputs of Rajasthan,” Sharma said on his show Aaj Ki Baat on Friday. The influential India TV chairperson, who is rumoured to be close to the BJP leadership, also declared that there was no distortion of history in the film, and that Bhansali had “kept in mind the need to respect the Rajput traditions and etiquette”.
Sharma also let out details of the film’s charactersation of Rawal Ratan Singh (Kapoor) and Alauddin Khilji (Singh) and the dance sequence Ghoomar, in which Padmini (Padukone) dances before the court. “It was alleged that he had portrayed Ratan Singh as a weak person, who bowed before Alauddin Khilji, that the film portrays Khilji as a hero, but after watching the entire film, one can only marvel in the manner Bhansali has portrayed Khilji as a scheming villain throughout the film, and Maharaja Rawal Ratan Singh as a brave king,” Sharma said.
Adapted from Malik Muhammad Jayasi’s epic poem Padmavat, Padmavati is based on the myth that Delhi sultanate ruler Alauddin Khilji invaded Chittor due to his lust for the titular queen. Political parties and organisations, including the BJP and the Rajput Karni Sena, have objected to the film on various grounds, including rumours of a dream sequence between Padmini and Khilji. Bhansali had addressed the doubts in a video, adding that “there is no scene in the film between the characters that will hurt anyone’s sentiments”.
Sharma cleared the air on the Ghoomar song. “I hail from Rajasthan, and I am well aware of Rajput tradition and culture,” he said. “I know that Rajput queens do not dance in public, but everybody would agree with me that queens and princesses do dance in the female quarters “Ranivas” of the palace with their friends and acquaintances. No male is allowed to watch this dance, except the king. In the film Padmavati, this was how it was exactly shown.”
Sharma said that the film portrays Rajputs in a “positive light”, and appealed to members of the Rajput community to watch Padmavati once before reaching a decision. “Every child in this great country will feel proud on watching the sacrifice of Rani Padmavati and Rawal Ratan Singh,” he said.
Journalist Arnab Goswami has also supported the film, regarding it as the “greatest ever tribute to Rajput pride”. Speaking on his primetime show on Republic TV, Goswami asserted that members of the Karni Sena will “be left looking utterly foolish once the movie hits the box office”.
Several organisations have demanded that Padmavati be shown to members of the Rajput community before its release so that they can ensure that it does not “distort history”. In a tweet on Friday night, co-producer Viacom18’s Chief Operating Officer Ajit Andhare indicated that the producers were willing to accede to this demand. “Can screen to responsible individuals who feel aggrieved. Please come, see it yourself, nothing to hide, put an end to this saga. Let’s celebrate our heritage,” he wrote.
The Central Board of Film Certification, led by Prasoon Joshi, had sent back the application for Padmavati on Thursday because it was allegedly incomplete. Criticising the board’s move, Andhare wrote on Twitter: “What an irony, those who are supposed to watch are looking the other way and we have to run around and show it at other forums to ‘clear’ it.”
Fringe organisations have issued violent threats to Padukone and Bhansali (including mutilation and beheading). Andhare thanked Union Information and Broadcasting Minister Smriti Irani and Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis for ensuring their safety. “We must appreciate that government has really gone out of the way to provide security to Sanjay and Deepika,” he tweeted.