Amid Karni Sena's anti-Padmavati stance, a look at historical films that weren't censured for inaccuracy
Those who do not know history are condemned to repeat it. This statement gains even more relevance in the case of the protests against Sanjay Leela Bhansali's period drama Padmavati.
Protesters across the country, led by Shri Rajput Karni Sena, have been objecting to 'distortion of historical facts' and 'misappropriation of the Rajput clan' without even watching the film. The opposition escalated to such an extent that it was believed to have pushed the film's release indefinitely from 1 December, 2017, though the makers claimed that it was "voluntarily deferred".
Since history has become the focal point of this debate, Firstpost decided to look back at the history of Hindi cinema — historical films over the years that enjoyed a smoother release.
If there is any parallel that can be drawn with the Padmavati controversy, it is Ashutosh Gowariker's 2008 period romance. The reservations were, yet again, over the depiction of the central female character. Members of the Rajput community argued that Jodha Bai was not Akbar's wife (as shown in the film). Rather, she was one of the wives of his son Jahangir.
Gowariker resorted to a disclaimer that claimed that the film does not make any accurate claims about Akbar's life. The filmmaker insisted that the protesters watch the film first before raising their voice against it. Similar to Padmavati, the film was banned in four states. But after Gowariker moved Supreme Court, the film was released in all states except Rajasthan, where Karni Sena enjoys a strong hold.
Aishwarya Rai Bachchan and Hrithik Roshan in a still from Jodhaa Akbar
Another period drama that chronicled Akbar was this K Asif 1960 classic. Historians pointed out multiple inaccuracies in the film, including the romance between Salim and Anarkali and even nitty gritties like inconsistencies in production design and choreography. However, the disagreement was confined to academic discourse and was never demonstrated on the streets.
Similarly, another semi-fictional account of the Mughal history, Akbar Khan's Taj Mahal: An Eternal Love Story, enjoyed a hassle-free release though it could not run the test of the box office.
This Salman Khan film also managed to provoke the ire of Karni Sena. Members of the outfit vandalised cinema halls in Jaipur after the film released owing to a dialogue voiced by Salman's titular character that implied Rajputs were traitors. However, the film continued to be screened in all theatres, with the security beefed up. On the other hand, Karni Sena vandalised a theatre in Kota where the trailer of Padmavati was being screened.
Mangal Pandey: The Rising
Aamir Khan's film did not interest Karni Sena but received a lot of resistance in Uttar Pradesh, particularly in the freedom fighter's native district of Ballia. The film did not release there in the midst of protests against the maligning of Pandey as the film showed him visiting a courtesan, played by Rani Mukerji. The protest, in this case, was limited both in terms of scale and to portions of the film, unlike the pan-India calls for a blanket ban on Padmavati.
Lagaan and Bose: The Forgotten Hero
Other films set in the Modern Era that enjoyed a peaceful release, and even recognition by the Union Government, are Gowariker's 2001 Aamir Khan starrer Lagaan and Shyam Benegal's 2004 film Bose: The Forgotten Hero. While the former was nominated for the Best Film in a Foreign Language category at the Academy Awards, the latter received a National Award for Best Feature Film on National Integration during UPA I.
Asoka and Mohenjo Daro
Both these films clarified right at the onset, through elaborate disclaimers, that they do not have any truck with history. Asoka denied it was an accurate account of the ruler's life and said that it only "attempts to follow Asoka's path". Similarly, Gowariker admitted that he has let his creativity loose in Mohenjo Daro owing to the paucity of established facts about the Harappan era and also maintained that his film should not be included in the academic discourse on the subject.
Shyam Benengal's 2001 National Award winning film Zubeidaa had strong historical roots but its accuracy stemmed from the lineage of its writer Khalid Mohammed. He was the son of Zubeida Begum who married Hanwant Singh of Jodhpur. In the film, Karisma Kapoor and Manoj Bajpai played Zubeda and Hanwant Singh.
Bhansali is no stranger to allegations of historical inaccuracy. His streak of imagined reality also got him trouble during the release of the 2015 blockbuster Bajirao Mastani. That time, the opposition was from the descendants of the Peshwas in Maharashtra who claimed that Rau, the book on which Bhansali based his script, is itself questionable in terms of its accuracy.
Similarly, now Bhansali has argued that Padmavati is actually based on Malik Muhammad Jayasi's poem Padmavat. That is why the Central Board of Film Certification has suggested he change the title to Padmavat in order to avoid any reference to history.
This Prithviraj Kapoor starrer was one of the first known historicals that India produced. Back in 1941, its release coincided with the soaring Quit India Movement. While the film was cleared by the Bombay Censor Board, its release was withdrawn in some of the areas that served the British Indian army. This draconian move was taken to prevent the Indians serving the British army from being influenced by the nationalistic theme of the film.
All images are screengrabs via YouTube.
Updated Date: Jan 06, 2018 18:19 PM