Meenakshi Shedde: Will Padmavati- Poopers walk the talk?
Will all those PadmavatiPoopers, who are opposing the film, have the courage to commit jauhar, mass suicide by self-immolation?"
Will all those PadmavatiPoopers, who are opposing the film, have the courage to commit jauhar, mass suicide by self-immolation?" Vidhushak asked Raja Andhayug. "What nonsense! Why should they?" the Raja exploded. He was already fuming over the forthcoming release of Padmavati. Guru Tamasoma said, "The honourable Rajputs and honourable Everybody Else Piling On are opposing the film as they feel their honour has been besmirched because Padmavati's honour was besmirched." "Exactly," Vidhushak replied. "I'm absolutely opposed to jauhar by anyone. But since Padmavati prevented her honour from being besmirched by committing jauhar, will PadmavatiPoopers prevent their honour from being besmirched by doing the same today?" A befuddled silence followed.
Deepika Padukone and Shahid Kapoor in Padmavati
"Have you seen the film Maharaj-ji?" Vishushak asked. "Of course not," Raja Andhayug replied. "Your mantrijis are very short-sighted," said Vidhushak. "They are worried about love jihad, right? Sanjay Leela Bhansali's Bajirao Mastani celebrated a historic Hindu-Muslim romance right under our noses. But the Padmavati trailer shows the Muslim Allauddin Khilji to be a savage, with wild hair, eating red meat and living in dark spaces, while the Rajputs are shot in full soft-focus glory. I find depictions of Muslims as villains and savages deeply offensive, but isn't a film like this perfect for the Gujarat elections? Arre, he is saying the same thing we are saying. This film should be our main campaign film. We should give Bhansali all state film incentives and tax free status so everyone can see the film." Raja Andhayug tried to absorb this sensible logic.
Vidhushak explained why supporting Padmavati could be a strategic move. "See, we have to be smart. Everybody knows blackmail is a standard ploy in India on the eve of a big film to extort money or get publicity, and many have threatened to burn down theatres showing Padmavati. Our government must never get mixed up in this," he said. "Maharaj, you have visited and invited foreign direct investment from nearly 50 countries. Now everyone will know India is a lawless nation where blackmail roams free. The PadmavatiPoopers are fighting for the honour of an ancient, fictional woman. But what are they doing to fight for today's women, especially in Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh, which have among the poorest sex ratios and among the highest female infanticide and foeticide rates in India?"
Raja Andhayug pondered over this. Then Guru Tamasoma complained, "Now when we have dropped Ravi Jadhav's Nude and Sanalkumar Sasidharan's S Durga from the Indian Panorama, after both were selected by the jury, they are again making a noise." "Nude is about how poverty drives a woman to pose nude for art students in the JJ School of Art. S Durga is about how an Indian woman can't walk safely in the streets at night, even if she has a boyfriend with her. Is it OK that this happens in real life, but not OK if shown onscreen?" Vidhushak asked. "I'm surprised that there has not been stronger opposition from the all-India film industry, as I had expected," Vidhushak continued. "But I'm more concerned both about the self-censorship in cinema, as well as the propaganda films. There was already Toilet, which promoted our Swachh Bharat campaign, and more Bollywood films will follow. But it is a steep and slippery slope," he warned.
Meenakshi Shedde is South Asia Consultant to the Berlin Film Festival, award-winning critic, curator to festivals worldwide and journalist. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org
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