Historical dramas, period films and biopics have always drawn extreme reactions in India. Fringe groups representing various vested interests have routinely claimed that portions of the film offend them, or misrepresent history, or simply portrays the community in a poor light.
In the case of Padmavati, however, there is another dimension at play. Rajasthan is scheduled to have Assembly elections in 2018, and the Rajput community is extremely powerful in the politics of the state. Sanjay Leela Bhansali's period drama, which purportedly tells the tale of 13th Century Rajput royal Rani Padmini, has many in the desert state up in arms.
The Vasundhara Raje government of the BJP, which is already battling anti-incumbency, will be keen to ensure it doesn't also alienate the Rajput community. At the same time, the Congress — that was booted out of power in 2013 — will also want the Rajputs on its side going into election season.
At times like these, statements made by parties on the film and its topic need to be viewed through the prism of electoral politics. In fact, opposition to the movie has united even the Congress and BJP, bitter rivals who otherwise are loath to see eye to eye on most other issues.
Here's a brief look back at who said what about Padmavati in the weeks leading up to the film's release, and how they might impact next year's Assembly elections.
"Necessary changes need to be incorporated into the movie, to ensure sentiments of any community aren't hurt. Film will not be released till suggestions given by experts are carried out." — Vasundhara Raje, Rajasthan chief minister
"We are seeking the law department's advice. If we have legal powers, we may consider a ban on the movie. We will discuss the issue again on Tuesday, as we want to do anything on the issue within the legal framework." — Gulab Chand Kataria, Rajasthan home minister
"I have not watched the movie as yet, but definitely the Central Board of Film Certification formulated and formed by the Bharatiya Janata Party-led government has seen it and passed it without cuts. But any movie that hurts the sentiments of any community, a film is not made to hurt any community." — Congress spokesperson RPN Singh. The Padmavati controversy has brought Congress and BJP on the same wavelength.
"If historical facts are distorted, and if anything is shown or said in the movie against the respect of the country's mother Padmavatiji, then that movie cannot be allowed to release in the land of Madhya Pradesh. And I am saying this because people of the country and Madhya Pradesh cannot accept disrespect of their pride. The insult will not be tolerated." — Shivraj Singh Chouhan, Madhya Pradesh chief minister. Madhya Pradesh is also due to have elections in 2018, and Chouhan, who has been in power for 12 years, will be keen to make it 17.
"Nobody has the right to take law into their own hands, be it Sanjay Leela Bhansali or anybody else. And I feel that if those giving death threats are guilty, then Bhansali is also guilty of hurting people's sentiments." — Yogi Adityanath, Uttar Pradesh chief minister.
"The Padmavati controversy is not only unfortunate but also a calculated plan of a political party to destroy the freedom to express ourselves. We condemn this super emergency. All in the film industry must come together and protest in one voice." — Mamata Banerjee, West Bengal chief minister. Banerjee has been bitterly opposed to the BJP since the time Narendra Modi-led NDA took charge of the Centre in 2014, and the Trinamool Congress will treat BJP's defeat in any state as a big win.
"I condemn the culture of intolerance and hate perpetuated by BJP. Karnataka stands with Deepika Padukone. She is a globally renowned artist from our state. I call upon the chief minister of Haryana, Manohar Lal Khattar, to take strict action against those holding out threats against her." — Siddaramaiah, Congress leader and chief minister of Karnataka. Karnataka Assembly elections are also scheduled for 2018, and Siddaramaiah would love to put one over the BJP. Especially since this particular issue also involves Deepika Padukone, who hails from Bengaluru.
"People have the right to be offended. Filmmakers should not distort historical facts. Padmini is part of our history and filmmakers should maintain sensitivity," — Nitin Gadkari, BJP leader and Union minister.
And finally, the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS). The MNS has no stake in Rajasthan. It has never contested any election for any constituency in the desert state, and is unlikely to start in 2018. And it was the only party to stay out of the debate surrounding Padmavati, saying it would rather wait till the movie is released and watch it before commenting on it.
Updated Date: Nov 21, 2017 15:23 PM