‘Padmavati’ Row: ‘Rajput Pride’ Being Raised With Ulterior Motives
Visuals from Jaigarh fort where Bhansali’s film ‘Padmavati’ was being shot in January 2017. Karni Sena members vandalised the set.
Visuals from Jaigarh fort where Bhansali’s film ‘Padmavati’ was being shot in January 2017. Karni Sena members vandalised the set.(Photo Courtesy: Twitter)

‘Padmavati’ Row: ‘Rajput Pride’ Being Raised With Ulterior Motives

The Padmavati controversy is back again. This time the Gujarat BJP is evoking the issue apparently to protect Rajput pride, but the real reason is obvious: The upcoming Gujarat poll.

Earlier this year, Rajput Karni Sena, which ostensibly has taken over the moral responsibility of protecting the Rajput pride, attacked director Sanjay Leela Bhansali and vandalised his shooting site in Jaipur, where he was shooting for this movie on Mewar queen Padmavati (also known as Rani Padmini).

Purportedly, the Gujarat BJP and the Karni Sena are hurt as Bhansali is distorting the history of the glorious Rajputs. But the big question is, which history are they talking about?

Also Read: Can We Stop Glorifying Padmavati For Choosing Honour Over Life?

At least in India, prominently there are two types of history.

The first has archaeological (or other) evidences and is, by and large, accepted as authentic history by a legion of historians. The second one evolved essentially because of folklores or due to eulogising by contemporary writers and storytellers.

Please note that the second part is different to mythology, which you can probably tip as the third type of history. Mythology is like fiction as there are no evidences of characters themselves.

In the second type of history, characters per se did exist and historians also agree on that, but there is hardly any acceptability on the depicted or narrated events involving those characters.

There are numerous examples. History says that ruler of Delhi Prithiviraj Chauhan was killed by Mohammad Ghori in the Second Battle of Tarain in 1192. Then there is another version where Prithiviraj was captured by Ghori, who took him to Ghazni. Later, Prithiviraj killed Ghori with the help of his friend and poet Chandvardai. Whereas there are clear evidences that Ghori was assassinated in 1206, there’s no real proof that Chauhan survived after 1192.

The Second Battle of Tarain.
The Second Battle of Tarain.
(Photo Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons: Hutchinson’s story of the nations)
Filmmakers normally pick the second type of history. There is hardly any historical evidence of conflict between Salim (later Emperor Jahangir) and his father because of Salim’s love interest Anarkali, as depicted by K Ashif in Mughal-e-Azam; but it is regarded as one of best Bollywood films till date.
 Dilip Kumar with Prithviraj Kapoor in <i>Mughal-e-Azam</i>.
Dilip Kumar with Prithviraj Kapoor in Mughal-e-Azam.

In 2001, in Asoka (Shah Rukh Khan in the title role), it was shown that Asoka’s close aide killed his half-brother and main competition to the throne Susima as he was about to backstab Asoka in a sheer act of deceit. Whereas historical evidence says that Asoka and his supporters killed Susima in well hatched conspiracy when Susima was entering Patliputra.

Naturally, the director had to portray his protagonist in good esteem. In fact, in bizarre contradiction to the most acceptable history, Asoka’s love interest was shown as the princess of the kingdom Kalinga, whereas the accepted history says that she was a fisherwoman.

You can expect untwisted history from DD’s shows like ‘Bharat – Ek Khoj’, but not from movies. Historical TV serials, which have been aired for the past few years are much worse and full of fictitious anecdotes. In one TV soap on Maharana Pratap, Akbar was shown as a bigot and eccentric, which is blatantly contrary to what Akbar really was.

A director would show what suits his narrative best.

In his previous movie, Bajirao Mastani, Bhansali portrayed Bajirao as a true warrior and a man committed in love, completely ignoring the fact that ruthless military campaigns of Marathas were full of barbarism and endless atrocities on common citizens.

Coming to the latest controversy, which is based on the 13th-14th century Chittorgarh queen Rani Padmavati. In the first place, whatever Bhansali is trying to depict as the director of the movie is purely Bhansali’s prerogative.

The motive behind the attack under the garb of Rajput pride is definitely ulterior in nature.

Secondly, does Karni Sena know what exactly happened in Chittorgarh during that period? Alauddin Khilji attacked Chittorgarh in 1303 AD and this is authentic history. The legend of Padmini is the second type of history, which came out of folklores and legends. Apparently Bhansali is only depicting what is narrated as a common story of Rani Padmini. Rajputs are ranting that the movie depicts a love angle between Khilji and Padmini, which is untrue. There is a love song in the movie, which is shown as the imagination of Khilji.

Also Read: Bandh Observed in Rajasthan as Protests Escalate Against Padmavati

Even if Bhansali is deviating, no one has the right to object as different storytellers may have different perspectives. The BJP, Karni Sena and its chief Lokendra Kalvi can only object if they have copyright on this story, which they don’t.

A few things about Khilji. Hindu fringe elements tip him as a traitor, barbarian and a bigot, which is not the true picture. True that Khilji captured the throne of Delhi by hatching a sinister plot against his uncle. Khilji himself murdered his uncle who was the Sultan of Delhi. But it is established beyond doubt that Khilji was an able ruler. He was visionary and introduced many reforms. For example, he was the one who introduced the department of weights and measures seven hundred years back.

Movies are meant to only entertain and not to teach or learn about history. It’s weird that those who themselves have half-baked knowledge of history are cribbing about twisted history.

(The writer is is an IIT graduate with passion for sports, history and politics and can be reached at @pankajag1973. The views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)

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