Protests against Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s ‘Padmaavat’ rocked states like Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh on Monday even as the Karni Sena indicated willingness to watch the film ahead of its scheduled release on January 25.
The Supreme Court also agreed to hear today the pleas of Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh governments, seeking recall of its January 18 orders allowing the screening of the controversial flick.
“List the applications for hearing tomorrow,” a bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud, said on Monday, when the counsel for both states mentioned the interim applications seeking modification of the order that allowed the screening of the film.
Senior advocate Harish Salve, appearing for the movie producer Viacom 18, opposed urgent hearing on the pleas saying it was “unfortunate” the way things were happening despite the Supreme Court order.
Meanwhile, two bodies which were protesting against the film — Shree Rashtriya Rajput Karni Sena and Akhil Bharatiya Kshatriya Mahasabha, also moved the Supreme Court seeking their impleadment as parties, opposing its release on grounds including that it hurt sentiments.
Protests, meanwhile, continued in several states. In Rajasthan, protesters in Rajsamand and Barmer blocked highways while a youth in Bhilwara climbed a mobile phone network tower to express opposition.
Towns like Indore, Ujjain and Jhabua in Madhya Pradesh witnessed road blockades while in Uttar Pradesh’s Gorakhpur, the home turf of Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, people waving saffron flags burnt an effigy of Bollywood director Bhansali right in front of a cinema hall.
The lavishly mounted period drama continued to face stiff opposition even as states like Haryana, Gujarat and Maharashtra promised security to theatres screening it.
Even as the row simmered on, the Shree Rajput Karni Sena said it was ready to watch the period drama as offered by Bhansali productions in a bid to end the deadlock.
Karni Sena has been the most vociferous of the fringe groups opposing the movie alleging historical facts were distorted.
“We are ready to watch the film. We never said that we will not watch the film. The filmmaker assured us one year ago that he will go for a special screening and now he has written for the screening and we are ready for it,” Sena leader Lokendra Singh Kalvi told PTI over the phone.
Bhansali productions had on January 20 written to the Shree Rajput Karni Sena and Rajput Sabha, Jaipur, inviting them to watch the film assuring that it showcased the honour and valour of Rajputs.
Despite expressing willingness to watch the movie, the Karni Sena continued its stiff opposition, as Kalvi met Chief Minister Adityanath in Lucknow and pressed for a ban on ‘Padmaavat’.
“People will impose ‘janta curfew’ in cinema halls in Uttar Pradesh if the movie is screened,” Kalvi said after his 20-minute meeting with Adityanath. He listed objections on nearly 40 different counts with regard to the movie.
Rajasthan Home Minister Gulab Chand Kataria, meanwhile, said that the state government’s petition in the Supreme Court would be strengthened if Karni Sena and the Mewar royal family became party to it.
“We are equally affected as are the people. We have exercised all the rights we have within the framework of law and constitution so that peoples’ sentiment and law and order issues can be addressed,” Kataria said.
The Haryana government said it would implement the Supreme Court order that allows the screening of the movie.
“It’s good if some theater owners do not want to screen the film, but those who want to, they will be provided full security,” Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar said.
The Mumbai police also promised security to the theatres that would show the controversial film.
In Gujarat, a platoon each of the State Reserve Police Force (SRPF) would secure the 10 theaters and multiplexes that have shown willingness to screen the film, according to a notification.
Politics over the film also continued as Congress leader and former Rajasthan chief minister Ashok Gehlot accused the BJP of politicizing the issue for reaping benefits in the Gujarat polls.
“The BJP was politicizing the Sanjay Leela Bhansali – directed film to reap benefits in the Gujarat polls.The controversy was intentionally twisted and nurtured,” the senior Congress leader alleged.
The Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP) too joined other right wing groups demanding that the film should not be allowed to be screened.
“Hindu organisations should hit the streets to lodge a strong protest against the film in a democratic manner. The issue is not concerned only with Rajputs but all Hindu castes that sacrificed lives in Jauhar,” VHP international working president Praveen Togadia said.
He said the VHP, Bajrang Dal and other organisations should not let the film release in the country.
Talking to reporters at the Jaipur International Airport, Togadia demanded that the Centre bring an ordinance to ban the film’s release as it did in the ‘Jallikattu’ case.
The film, starring Deepika Padukone as Rani Padmavati and Ranveer Singh as Allaudin Khilji, will hit the screens on January 25, after months of stiff opposition from right-wing groups. PTI