An im­mor­talised queen

A movie can­not be sen­si­tized and turned into a po­lit­i­cal gim­mick be­yond its po­etic ex­pres­sion. Fic­tion­ally it does not have to be cor­rect or even fair.

Alive - - Content - by Kal­pana M Nagh­noor

Pad­ma­vathi or Queen Pad­mini is a princess from the Sing­hal King­dom of the present Sri Lanka 13th and 14th cen­tury. Her beauty was famed through­out In­dia and Sri Lanka. She was im­mor­talised by the fa­mous poet at the time, Mal­lik Muham­mad Jayasi in 1540. It is through his poem that she came to be known as Pad­ma­vathi while all along she was Queen Pad­mini. It all de­pends on the way his­tory was recorded in those days. But the fact re­mains she was known by two names. Pad­ma­vathi could also be an al­le­go­rized ver­sion of Queen Pad­mini and she may seem more myth­i­cal than real. This is all his­tory yet it holds rel­e­vance to­day, but that rel­e­vance needs to be un­der­stood.

Artis­tic free­dom and re­al­ity

Way back in 1540 if Mal­lik Muham­mad Jayasi could al­le­go­rize the Queen Pad­mini and thereby she has come to be known by that very name, Pad­ma­vathi more fa­mously, why not to­day when di­rec­tor San­jay Leela Bhansali wishes to im­mor­talise the Queen fur­ther with his own per­cep­tion of love. Artists take real-life char­ac­ters and spin them into dreams. These dreams are not real but they are the ones that pro­vide good eco­nomic turnover, cul­tural

rep­re­sen­ta­tion of the ma­tu­rity of the re­gion and many pre­oc­cu­pa­tions with cul­ture, present a beau­ti­ful In­dia to other na­tions. The film in­dus­try is a rich eco­nomic en­deav­our and pro­vides millions of jobs for peo­ple. A movie can­not be sen­si­tized and turned into a po­lit­i­cal gim­mick be­yond its po­etic ex­pres­sion. Fic­tion­ally it does not have to be cor­rect or even fair. It is just an ex­pres­sion of artis­tic pro­por­tions.

In re­al­ity, Pad­ma­vati movie be­comes a vic­tim of pa­tron­age and ha­tred. Pol­i­tics is play­ing with the artis­tic ex­pres­sions in full swing. The Cen­sor Board is sit­ting over the movie and the mat­ter even reached to the Supreme Court of In­dia and a par­lia­men­tary panel. The apex court di­rects the cen­sor board to do its work for the movie. With­out watch­ing the film, sev­eral state gov­ern­ments have al­ready banned its re­lease. It hurts the movie mak­ers and artis­tic mind of com­mon man.

We need to be more ma­ture

The sad thing about the peo­ple who protest about artis­tic ex­pres­sions like the con­tro­versy that is rag­ing re­gard­ing the movie Pad­ma­vathi is that they, who have a per­sonal agenda. What they make ap­pear like a blem­ish on his­tor­i­cal facts and the sen­ti­ments of Ra­jputs is ac­tu­ally po­lit­i­cal pos­tur­ing. That an en­tire na­tion should be sub­jected to that is a breach of the right of the peo­ple of In­dia who have ev­ery right to en­joy artis­tic ex­pres­sions in all forms. Threats which have been thrown at Deepika Padukone are not demo­cratic in na­ture and we do not live in a dic­ta­to­rial en­vi­ron­ment. Such threats can­not be

ac­cepted. Any­body who wants to protest must do it with­out be­ing threat­en­ing. The Gov­ern­ment should be very clear on that. We are liv­ing in a civilised so­ci­ety we can­not have groups of peo­ple in­tim­i­dat­ing fel­low cit­i­zens. It is a cul­ture we must not al­low to grow. The coun­try needs to see such con­tro­ver­sies in a ma­ture light.

Call­ing for proof

An­ar­chy of such sorts has per­me­ated into our coun­try when po­lit­i­cal, re­li­gious and self-styled groups of peo­ple are ap­point­ing them­selves as moral keep­ers. In the case of the movie Pad­ma­vathi, has any­body found a part of the movie dis­cour­te­ous to the Ra­jputs then they should peace­fully ap­proach the Cen­sor Board and place be­fore it a mem­o­ran­dum, giv­ing proof of what is con­trary to the sen­ti­ment of the Ra­jputs. In­dia must leg­is­late laws to protest and protest peace­fully. Protes­ta­tion must be backed by fac­tual ev­i­dence. If a group wants to protest, they need to back up their al­le­ga­tions with fac­tual ev­i­dence like a sig­na­ture cam­paign etc. If they feel a ma­jor­ity of Ra­jputs are of­fended then they must prove 50% or more peo­ple are of­fended and they must pro­duce those many sig­na­tures ver­i­fied by a gov­ern­ment agency to be cor­rect. We need to leg­is­late protes­ta­tions with newer laws and guide­lines and set up a board that rat­i­fies such protes­ta­tion.

In­dia must not tread the path of Pak­istan

In­dia the land of Yoga and Ahimsa can­not stand for in­tol­er­ance. We can­not stand for in­tol­er­ance of po­etic ex­pres­sions. What these pro­test­ers should re­ally ques­tion is the de­mo­graphic gen­der in­equal­ity that is in ex­is­tence in Ra­jasthan. The lit­er­acy rate of women is low and do­mes­tic vi­o­lence against women runs high. Among such grave con­cerns why does Queen Pad­ma­vathi who is of the past and lit­tle known other­wise but for the movie, so im­por­tant? The in­credulity of such protes­ta­tion is a clear in­di­ca­tion that the pro­test­ers are not sin­cere.

Leg­is­la­tion and newer laws re­quired

In In­dia, protes­ta­tions are get­ting dan­ger­ous and too fre­quent. It ap­pears like cer­tain fac­tions are look­ing to for an op­por­tu­nity to protest. Free­dom to protest can­not be greater than free­dom of ex­pres­sion. If at all they are equal. Then there should be no threats lev­elled at such artis­tic ex­pres­sions and con­no­ta­tions. When threat em­anates in the name of protes­ta­tions then the law­mak­ers must take cog­ni­sance of it and leg­is­late laws to make such as­ser­tions proof wor­thy.

Or­gan­i­sa­tions should be reg­is­tered only mem­bers of the groups should protest

Mem­bers must pay a yearly fee to have the priv­i­lege to rep­re­sent any group

The mem­bers protest­ing should val­i­date their protest with ev­i­dence and their writ­ten per­cep­tion of the point of dif­fer­ence.

There must be proof of such protes­ta­tions. If the group claims an event or a movie hurts the sen­ti­ment of the ma­jor­ity of the peo­ple, then they must prove by a writ­ten sub­mis­sion that it does so, with writ­ten dec­la­ra­tions of those many peo­ple and each stat­ing why and it can­not be cat­e­gorised.

Po­lit­i­cal pos­tur­ing has risen to un­healthy pro­por­tions. The coun­try is yet swayed by a few vested in­ter­ested peo­ple who dis­rupt the peace of the coun­try by threat­en­ingly ad­dress­ing is­sues. Some is­sues which are not im­por­tant, should not be high­lighted, is­sues which are im­por­tant should be ad­dressed with sane rea­son­able­ness.

Is­sues which come from wrong artis­tic ex­pres­sion cer­tainly do not af­front a ma­jor­ity and are ir­rel­e­vant in the face of the many hard­ships and chal­lenges In­dia faces. In­dia has 27% be­low poverty line. There is lack of san­i­ta­tion. Swatch Bharat is still to evolve to com­plete­ness.

Alarm­ing child mor­tal­ity rate, gen­der bias and many other real is­sues. Against all these ma­jor con­cerns Queen Pad­ma­vathi and the con­tro­versy sur­round­ing a movie sounds like and is­sue­less noise.

Why it should gain na­tional im­por­tance is still a mat­ter of con­cern. Why this con­tro­versy can­not be ad­dressed with­out threats is a mat­ter of greater con­cern.

Film­maker San­jay Leela Bhansali: Fac­ing the stir.

Some Hindu groups protest­ing against the movie's re­lease.

CBFC Chief Pra­soon Joshi.

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