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Striking balance: Padmaavat

Striking balance: Padmaavat
The Supreme Court on Monday dismissed Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh governments' plea against the release of Sanjay Leela Bhansali-directed and Deepika Padukone and Ranveer Singh starter Padmaavat. The film has courted controversy ever since it was being filmed in Rajasthan last year in January when those opposed to it vandalised the shooting of the film. In the raging controversy, the bone of contention is the content of the film, which is based on two historical figures a Hindu queen and a Muslim king. India's history has witnessed a number of invaders attacking the country and plundering its riches and resources. The Mughals, like the British, ruled India for centuries and the natives underwent a long spell of trauma and struggle for survival. But the Indian history is also full of examples when armies of bravehearts – men and women -- took it upon themselves to fight for their dignity and prestige of their community. Some of these stories have been brought on the celluloid. Film Padmaavat also tries to qualify as one of those films. Let's not forget Bollywood films are commercial ventures and the filmmakers have only one consideration: A big success and a bigger profit. To meet this objective, filmmakers hire best of talents and pay them crores of rupees. To make the films successful, they need to pick the right story that appeals to maximum number of people and plays on their sentiments. To make the story gripping, they take artistic liberty; and to make it engaging and interesting, they throw in spicy love scenes, songs, and dances, even nudity and violence. The high caliber film professionals use their skill and talent to camouflage the cheapness to give their products a classy façade.
As Padmaavat has cleared all hurdles and is set to be released on January 25, some of the state governments are developing cold feet fearing that the film might offend sensitivities of certain communities and can lead to law and order problem. Cinema halls have similar apprehensions. But the Censor Board of Film Certification (CBFC) has cleared the film and the Supreme Court does not see any reason why it should not be released like any other film on the logic that law and order is the states' responsibility and they must maintain it. This leaves all the aggrieved parties without recourse. On his part, Sanjay Leela Bhansali has invited the office bearers of Karni Sena, which has been at the forefront of the opposition to the film, to a private screening of the film to remove his apprehensions and misgivings but they have not agreed to this. As the film reportedly touches on sensitive personal and historical facts about a Hindu queen in a fictionalised story, the womenfolk are also agitating against the film. And, to top it all, the film comes at a time when some of the big states are poll-bound and the screening of the film may bring back some vexing and uncomfortable issues to political debate. This can lead to a polarisation of votes along caste and communal lines, which will be resented by political parties who stand at the receiving end of this new dynamics. From being a piece of entertainment to a political tool, Padmaavat can unfold to ominous dimensions. Or, are those opposing the film simply too worried and unnecessarily agitated about a film that may even crash on the box office on day one as hordes of them do every week? As filmmaking is a fine craft, so is every other profession if attention is given to every detail. As rightly pointed out by the Supreme Court, state governments are duty-bound to maintain law and order and it has adequate resources, both ready and stand-by, to ensure that a duly-cleared film is screened at cinema halls without a hiccup. Besides risking crores of rupees in making films, the filmmakers have a great reputation of picking untouched and unorthodox subjects and ideas. The artistic license that they use to tell stories about difficult subjects must be protected as their narrative goes on to expand our horizon, give us a broader canvass, help us shed our parochial considerations.
The relevance of opposition to the film from organisations like Karni Sena can be understood from the fact that Rajasthan's stake in Indian film and television industry is very high. Many of the popular TV serials tell stories of glorious history and culture of the state and the community that Karni Sena represents. A large number of film directors, actors and other professionals come from the state. And, Rajasthan is a favourite destination for shooting of films and TV serials. There is not much wrong if Karni Sena has a voice and opinion, mild or strong, on an issue that is innate to its social milieu.
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