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Patriarchy strikes once again, in the form of the self-styled custodians of our country’s honour and culture, sending our nation back into the Dark Ages, via the direct intervention of the Karni Sena.
What is their reason, one might ask! “The movie shows our queens in poor light. Our Queens never used to dance. Bhansali has insulted our culture and heritage!”
One enlightened soul retorted, “Padmavati has many objectionable scenes that we are protesting against!” When asked about the objectionable bits, he had no idea because all he had seen, along with the entire motley Sena, was the innocuous trailer.
The protests which started in Rajasthan, with the beating up of the director, the vandalising of the sets, the breaking of the mirrors in Chittorgarh Fort, and the unpardonable destruction of an exquisite rangoli of Deepika as the proud queen, then spilled over to Karnataka, where protestors shouted slogans with no idea about what the actual problem was. They were like the Blind Men and the Elephant who had heard bits and pieces of what the movie is about after having seen the trailer, which is like the tail of the said elephant.
What were the other objections of the detractors?
Apparently, they dreamt of a dream sequence between Padmavati and Alauddin Khilji, which is not even in the movie, according to Bhansali. They went on to berate Bhansali for having used the name ‘Padmavati’, the name of a queen revered in Rajasthan. “Why didn’t he use ‘Kamini’ or some such name?” asked one brash young man. ‘How dare Bhansali insult the memory of a queen of ancient India?”
Deepika Padukone, who plays the role of the exquisite Padmavati, has received death threats from fringe elements who take themselves, and the honour of the country, very seriously.
The latest is that Bhansali has been summoned before a parliamentary panel to explain his views on the controversy his movie has stoked up. The censor board chief, Prasoon Joshi, who was also called, has averred that only the movie’s trailer and promos have been approved, and not the movie itself.
Bhansali has defended his film saying, “All the controversy over the film is based on rumours. I have not distorted facts. The film is based on a poem by Malik Muhammed Jayasi.” He is referring to ‘Padmavat’, an epic poem written by the 16th century Indian Sufi poet.
However, six states in the North have already banned the movie.
So many ideas fly out of the window in modern India – creativity, the right to express one’s opinion, art for art’s sake and above all, poetic licence – concepts that were given free rein centuries ago. Today, even as the world has become a smaller place with the help of technology, people’s minds have grown narrower and less accepting. As Edna Ferber put it, “A closed mind is a dying mind.” Even jokes and cartoons need to be measured and put out there because they can come back and bite their creators in the backside. It is dangerous to have a sense of humour; it is even more so to exhibit one.
If one wanted to stoke up another controversy, (I do not!), one could mention another queen in history who danced and sang of her beloved all day long…the devout Mirabai. She was so immersed in her music that real life passed her by. I fervently hope that no modern director catches the bull by the horns to make a movie on her.
So, while other problems infest the country like tiny termites, sucking its life-blood out – militancy, terrorism, crimes against women and the weak, disrespect and blatant flouting of the laws, poverty, vandalism and bloodshed, cow vigilantism and corruption, all of which should definitely be top priority, these young, sturdy men, who could help in solving many of these, instead wallow in petty protests against a mere film that hurts their sentiments.
When will we get our priorities right? When will we see the day when women are revered more than cows? When will we be able to respect one another’s religions, individuality, viewpoints, ideas and thoughts with minds that are open enough to let the sunshine in? There is nothing quite as stagnant as a mind that is closed against reason.
As Lennox Lewis, the boxer, put it so well, “The danger of a closed mind is that it can also leave good things like love, compassion and reason on its outside.”
Do we really want to leave a world filled with such minds to our descendants? Maybe, it is time that we started to think about that.
A final quote which sums it all up by Martin Luther King Jr:
“Our days begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”
Image used via Wikimedia Commons, under a Creative Commons license 3.0