A film has been made. Sentiments have been hurt and threats have been flying thick and faster than the time former CBFC chief would have taken to ban an anti-Sanskari movie. Cut a nose, some said. No, that wouldn't really do, said another man who would not settle for anything less than a head. With the reward offered for one head, two indie movies with Nawazuddin Siddiqui in the lead could have been made offending every Ram, Lakshman and Hari and nobody would even have noticed.
Karni Sena, an organisation that gets to have its eleven minutes in limelight only when Bollywood comes up with a big budget movie (Jodhaa Akbar about a decade ago, Veer a few years later and Padmavati now), is now the new bhai,or protector, of Indian women's honour. "Rajput Karni Sena is fighting to protect the image of women being portrayed in the films. We never raise a hand on women but if need be, we will do to Padukone what Lakshman did to Shurpanakha for violating the rules and culture of India," Karni Sena member Mahipal Singh Makrana had solemnly declared. If not anything else, enough thought has gone into comparing Deepika Padukone with Ravana's sister as this would grant license for the raging fringe groups to go ahead and make Padukone noseless.
The first major affront on Karni Sena sensibilities was in 2008. The fringe forum shot to fame when they sought a ban on Ashutosh Gowarikar's historical drama Jodhaa Akbar claiming that history was blatantly distorted in the film. Creative freedom was used as an excuse to twist historical facts, they said while demanding a ban on the movie. There were even letters written in blood, seeking ban. Karni Sena, even then, is no stranger to coercion, threats and demand for ban and the ensuant media glare.
Padmavati, another Sanjay Leela Bhansali outing with gorgeous stars, magnificent sets and fair dose of dance numbers, managed to cause irreparable harm to Rajput pride. Since then there was no stopping. The threats, each more crackbrained than other, have hogged headlines. Debates raged on as politicians joined in. Vasundhara Raje wanted "necessary changes in the film", Yogi Adityanath called action against film makers, Amarinder Singh did not want cinematic licence to be "used to distort historical facts” and Shivraj Singh Chouhan said a strict "no" to screening the movie in his state. In the election-bound state of Karnataka, Siddaramaiah evoked Kannada pride and raced to support Padukone.
Who is to be blamed? The craytards who think they can get away with threats, protests, bans and intimidation or the leaders who dance to their tunes? Shouldn't some fault also lie with the news-hungry media who eagerly await to make every teeny bit of meaningless threat that is issued so very often?
Historians were apprehensive about the real Padmavati. “Though Alauddin Khilji had won Chittor, during that period there is no mention of any character as Padmavati in history,” said professor emeritus in Aligarh Muslim University Prof Irfan Habib. More fiction than actual history, Padmavati and her talking parrot Hiraman may only have been the product of imagination of Sufi poet Malik Muhammad Jayasi. Padmavat, an epic poem by the Sufi saint, narrates how Alauddin Khilji, the powerful ruler of the Khalji dynasty of Delhi Sultanate, fell passionately in love with Padmavati and she reciprocated none of it. But who gives two hoots about a thing called history when there is ample fodder to fuel a riot in a trailer? Clearly, not Karni Sena.
It didn't help when Sanjay Leela Bhansali clarified that there's nothing brewing between his Khilji and Padmavati. “I’ve made this film Padmavati with a lot of sincerity, responsibility and hard work. I have always been inspired by Rani Padmavati’s story and this film salutes her valour and sacrifice. But because of some rumours, this film has become a subject of controversy.” Sincerity, responsibility and hard work are words that may never resonate with the ones ready to plunge at Padukone with a royal dagger.
The men, nonetheless, seem to have been in a safer zone. There has been no reward for the lock of Ranveer Singh or a leg of Shahid Kapoor. Men, I tell you, they can never hurt your pride the way a Padukone can.