OPNIONMAKERS@ The Hush Post: A written word today is almost like a landline telephone 30 years ago, mostly dead, yet mummified and valued. Malik Mohammad Jayasi’s poem Padmavat is that written word, mummified. It is a poem so there will be an unquestionable poetic licence. Can one term such poetic licence as lies? But the moment a play is staged or a film made on a historical figure like Padmavati, with the poem at its centre, it gets called lies, a piece of art not virgin anymore. Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Padmavati is a victim of unintelligent understanding of the finer concepts of literature, poetry and cinema. No one questioned the abundantly available poem across many countries but everybody is questioning the unreleased film. Films are a source of not just entertainment but education also. Though, in this context, the latter has been rendered immaterial. Films boost some of the best ideas, histories, sciences which remain buried in the libraries and in the minds of experts. Look at Jurasssic Park the 1993 film. No one knew of the dinosaurs except geologists and evolutionary biologists till it came. And now a toddler can blabber the names of various types of dinosaurs.
Likewise no one knew Padmavati, taught as Rani Padmini at the BA level in colleges. “In most academic books, it winds up in quarter of a page with reference to Allauddin Khilji’s conquests,” says Dr Paramjeet Singh, a historian with special interest in medieval history. He agrees a lot of written word even if controversial is much like wikileaks better buried in libraries. “But we need to get it out, better filmed,” Singh concurs.
Coming back to the controversy regarding Padmavati, Dr Tarlok Bandhu an educational psychologist says, “History does not mean that one history should be taught. There are histories. There is a paper in JNU titled the histories of partition. Similarly, there can be different perspectives on most historical subjects.”
So if there is Rajput folklore of Padmavati then you can’t deny space to Padmavat, the epic poem by Malik Mohammad Jayasi and its more than 12 adaptations in Urdu and Persian including Prem Nama by Hansa Dakkani and later Rat Padam and Shama-wa-parwanah. They are lost in libraries. This is precisely the reason films on historical events and personalities are welcome. Look at Gandhi the film, it wasn’t his autobiography or biography by Louis Fischer which introduced him to the world so much as did the film by Richard Attenborough, more particularly after the Oscar awards sweep.
The most important part of the Padmavati story is that of Gora-Badal, the uncle-nephew duo, and Rani Padmini intruding into the Khilji camp with her entourage of female companions in 50 palanquins to save Padmini’s husband Ratan Singh. It is such a brilliant story but even the students of history are bereft of the complete knowledge of this particular episode, says Anchal Arora, a professor of history. And thus it needs to be broadcast. As far as its veracity is concerned, histories like these can never have absolute truth, they cannot be treated like mathematics. Historians seldom converge on the truth like mathematicians or scientists. They cannot arrive at ‘the point,’ they do hover around it from opposite directions.
So the question is, why such a big hue and cry? It is because the Karni Sena wants their story of Padmavati to be the final conclusion. Anything else, part poetic licence of Malik Mohammad Jayasi or a bit of cinematic leela of Bhansali is unwelcome for them. Even though, historian Harish Puri says, “Jayasi’s Padmavat does not show Khilji in good light and rightly so.” Thus Padmavati who was shown against Allauddin in the poem should have settled the controversy long ago.
Still, departure from the absolute truth and showing half-true images cannot really be argued. In fact, it should never be. In Bhaag Milkha Bhaag, the director Rakyesh Om Prakash Mehra focused on Milkha Singh winning the 1958 Commonwealth Games gold in 400 metres final and the race against Pakistan’s Abdul Khaliq, then known as ‘The Flying Bird of Asia.’ When Milkha beat Khaliq, he got the sobriquet ‘The Flying Sikh.’ The film ends there. Mehra, for obvious reasons, chose to obliterate the most important race in Milkha’s life — the 1964 Tokyo Olympics’ 400 metres final where he lost and couldn’t win the medal. Now for all those who know a bit of sports history, the film hid the most important fact of Milkha’s life. But it was done only to show the spirit of the man Milkha, more than his loss.
Coming back to Padmavati, the fact is that Bhansali is being sentenced before the trial by the Karni Sena, and government is complicit by being the silent spectator, in fact they are giving into the demands of the Karni Sena, who are responsible for threatening Deepika and Bhansali. Instead of registering an FIR against them, the state government and the central government are pandering to them.
PADMAVATI breaking on Big Boss: The apprehension of the Karni Sena was cleared not on any of the 24/7 news channels. It was cleared on Big Boss in a seemingly freewheeling conversation but by all means a deliberate one by host Salman Khan when he asks Deepika Padukone: “You have been with Ranveer in three films?”
And Deepika answers, trying to be casual quite deliberately, “In a way yes and no.”
Salman tries to look inquisitive and asks: “Why so?”
Deepika: “No because, in the other two films I am cast opposite Ranveer but in Padmavati, he is playing Allauddin Khilji and he doesn’t have any scenes (intimate) with me.”
And then Salman repeats it like an echo speaker, “Deepika has no scenes, no scenes, scenes, scenes with Raveer, thereby laying to rest the doubts of the Karni Sena. She also categorically said, “It is a film about the valour of the Rajputs and of Rani Padmavati.”