The casualty is creativity

The casualty is creativity

Bringing history to the silver screen is a risky business in this country because one would never know when one strays into a minefield called...

Bringing history to the silver screen is a risky business in this country because one would never know when one strays into a minefield called historical facts while making a period film. Sanjay Leela Bhansali who has mastered the art of turning any story into a magnificent masterpiece seems to be learning the perils of re-telling history or a part of it as a visual extravaganza the hard way.

The raging controversy over his latest Padmavati is an example. It has run into such a deep trouble that the movie may even miss its release date on December 1. The period film about the queen of Chittor has mired in controversy from the very beginning and futile attempts had been made to stop making the movie in its tracks, mainly by Rajasthan-based Karni Sena which is spearheading the anti-Padmavati stir.

It has even resorted to threats of physically harming the movie’s lead character Deepika Padukone for her so-called ‘provocative’ statements. The antagonists’ demands include a total ban on the film, a pre-release review by communities like Rajputs and Brahmins to check whether the movie has been made according to ‘historical facts.’ Their main contention is Bhansali has distorted the glorious history of Rajputs in general and their queen Padmini in particular by showing them in poor light.

None has seen the full-length movie so far but based on the story line, it is presumed it deviated from historical facts. Before it hits thousands of screens in the country and abroad, the agitators want a pre-release review by a committee whose decision is binding on Bhansali. Such a demand, if acceded to, will set a dangerous precedent. If communities or pressure groups start agitating for pre-release reviews over perceived objectionable or distorted content, viewers can never get a chance to watch a movie because no film can satisfy all the people all the time. In other words, a clutch of people should not be allowed to do the job of Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC).

In the case of Padmavati, however, CBFC chief Prasoon Joshi’s allegation that it is being screened for media even before getting Censor certification is fully justified. Bhansali ‘jumping the gun’ as he puts it further complicates the issue once opinions start flooding the digital media.

Already, the film has assumed political and religious overtones with lawmakers and the film fraternity jumping into the battle of freedom of expression. While Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje asked Union Minister for Information and Broadcasting Smriti Irani not to allow the film’s release without making changes as demanded by the Rajput community, veteran actress Shabana Azmi has raised questions about CBFC sending back the film on the grounds that the documents submitted for certification were ‘incomplete’.

She also sees attempts for ‘electoral gains’ in keeping the controversy alive. With the film becoming a tool in political hands, its value – whether based on facts or not – is obscured. The casualty is creativity and spirit of innovation.

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