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The Padmavati controversy


The story of queen Padmavati as depicted in the latest Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Padmavati starring Deepika Padukone, Ranvir Singh, Shahid Kapoor, has stirred some trouble to the extent of death threats. The movie is based on the heroic story of Padmavati. However, there is no certainty as to whether such a person existed or not as there are no concrete findings on the same and there are many versions of the story that differ on vital details such as by Malik Muhammad Jayasi, Hemratan, James Tod and many Bengali adaptations of the same including one by Rabindranath Tagore.


The most famous version is that Padmavati is a work of fiction depicted in the epic poem ‘Padmavat; written by 16th-Century poet Malik Muhammad Jayasi. The origin and story are set in 14th century Chittorgarh and is about a Hindu queen Padmavati who belongs to the Rajput community. As per a publication Khyat of Jaisalmer, Padmavati is described as the daughter of Rawal Punpalji of Jaisalmer and the daughter of the Bhati ruler of Pugal region. The story praises the beautiful queen who committed Jauhar, along with all the palace women, to protect her honor from the Muslim emperor who had killed her husband in a battle. The story is seen as the epitome of bravery, loyalty and women power and narrates this powerful tale of an iconic queen. Thus, the folklore held Padmavati as a symbol of honor and holds her in high regards. She is even worshipped in some parts of the country.

The actual story the queen is debated amongst historians as it is only heard through ballads and oral traditions. Historian Irfan Habib of Aligarh Muslim University said that Padmavati is not a "historical but an imaginary character". Some have an issue with the story itself as it glorifies Sati. Here too, the historians conflict on some essential facts such as the date of death of Padmavati by committing Jauhar. It is no surprise that history, if not always, is often found to be diluted or distorted by the narrator or writer’s beliefs. Thus, even stories such as Mahabharata or Ramayana might be distorted to an extent.


However, leading such allegations is the right- winged Hindu groups called the Rajput Karnik Sena who raised allegations that the film shows the queen and the infamous Muslim ruler Alauddin Khilji in an intimate relationship through a dream sequence. In furtherance of this, they have called for a ban.  Though, this has been denied by the producers of the film, the allegations that the truth has been distorted and the beloved queen has been defamed are doing rounds.

Despite what the producers say, the protests have taken a violent turn and threats such as shutting tourists out of Chittor fort, disrupting the shooting of the film and slapping Bhansali on the set have taken place. They are also involved in causing vandalism in cinemas and have also threatened to chop of Deepika Padukone’s nose as punishment. A regional BJP leader went to the extent of announcing a reward of 10 crores each for beheading Bhansali and Padukone. They have also called for a nationwide bandh on December 1.

This has not only caused and raised public disorder but has also affected the tourism in the state. But the government has been silent on the issue especially the Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje. However, former royal Diya Kumari and Union minister Uma Bharti have spoken against the screening of the film.

Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat have banned the screening of the movie in order to maintain the law and order in the State.


The Supreme Court dismissed petitions seeking ban calling it “premature” and that it is not inclined in the matter as it cannot assume the role of the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) who has not yet passed the film. The case is instituted for defamation under Indian Penal Code. The Delhi High Court on 24th November 2017 dismissed the plea against the film and stated that admission of such petitions is encouraging agitation.

Whether or not the movie releases on 1 December it is certain that the controversy has sparked a debate as to the sanity of our choices where we would kill for a fictional character.

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