Attack on Bhansali, shameful act

The brutal attack on filmmaker Sanjay Leela Bhansali on the sets of his new film, Padmavati in Jaipur by the self-appointed defenders of Indian culture and history, the Rajput Karni Sena Brigade, deserves to be condemned in the strongest terms. That the protagonists of Bollywood have become the target of a series of attacks by the Hindutva forces ever since the Narendra Modi government came to power at the Centre in May 2014, is a matter of grave concern. What is more disturbing is that instead of fighting such hooliganism and defending its rights, the Bollywood fraternity routinely surrenders ever so quickly, that it gives no chance to its large body of supporters outside to intervene on its behalf.

The attack on a distinguished filmmaker like Bhansali, who has given some of the most entertaining films like Devdas and Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam, comes in the wake attempts to browbeat other filmmakers like Karan Johar and Shah Rukh Khan, merely because they had employed Pakistani actors. Johar had to reach a settlement with Navnirman Sena leader Raj Thackeray before his film Ae Dil Hai Mushkil could be released at the behest of Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, giving a commitment that he would never have Pakistani actor Fawad Khan again. Thackeray wanted Karan Johar to make a contribution of Rs 5 crore to the armed forces’ rehabilitation fund, which the armymen themselves refused, saying they did not wish to be part of any blackmail. As far as Shah Rukh is concerned, he visited Raj Thackeray’s office before the release of his film Raees to assure him that the Pakistani heroine of the film, Mahira Khan, would not come to India to promote the film.

The allegation against Bhansali is that in Padmavati, loosely scripted after the Rajput queen Padmini — who history records, committed jouhar (falling into a large pit of fire) with her 16,000 escorts rather than fall into enemy hands — he had allegedly shown her dreaming of a sexual affair with her captor Sultan Alauddin Khilji. Bhansali neither confirmed nor denied it, but after the assault, he merely said, “everything is fine. There is no love scene between the Sultan and the Rajput queen.” Considering that Bhansali had got into similar trouble wi­th two of his recent films, Bajirao Mastani and Ram Leela, one should remind Bollywood filmmakers that there is no substitute for meticulous research and hard work. Artistic licence is perfectly justified as long as it is used to tell a cred­ible
story, but where historical figures and events are concer­ned, they should ensure that facts are never distorted.

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