Shabana Azmi Calls for Boycott of IFFI to Protest Threats Against 'Padmavati' Stars, Director

The actor criticised the government for not condemning those making open threats of violence.

New Delhi: Actor Shabana Azmi has called on all of the Indian Film Industry to boycott the International Film Festival of India (IFFI) to protest the threats to Deepika Padukone, Sanjay Leela Bhansali and others involved with the film Padmavati. In a tweet, Azmi said that Union information and broadcasting minister Smriti Irani was able to organise IFFI only because the film industry brings so much acclaim to the country, yet the government says nothing when film stars and makers are openly threatened with violence.

Sections of the Rajput community have been protesting against the film for allegedly distorting history and portraying Queen Padmavati in a bad light. The legend around the queen was first mention in Sufi poet Malik Muhammad Jayasi’s Padmavat, dating to 1540. The legend, historian Divya Cherian writes in The Hindu, “was told and retold over the centuries and across the land”.

Groups such as the Shri Rajput Karni Sena have said they will not allow the film to be released, and gone as far as to openly declare that they will cut off Padukone’s nose (she plays Padmavati in the film) for her ‘misrepresentation’. Convenor of the Karni Sena Lokendra Singh Kalvi has also threatened Bhansali’s family: “We will not spare the family of Bhansali because he has insulted our mother Padmavati”. The Uttar Pradesh government has asked the Centre to delay the film’s release because they fear a law and order problem.

The Central Board of Film Certification on Thursday sent the Bhansali-directed Padmavati back to the makers as the application for the certification was “incomplete”. “The film was submitted for certification last week. We examined the documents, as we normally do. It was conveyed to the makers that their application was incomplete. They had to rectify and send it back, we will view it when it comes back to us,” a source in the CBFC told PTI.

Shabana Azmi. Credit: PTI

Shabana Azmi. Credit: PTI

Azmi also questioned the CBFC’s decision to send the application back.

While the central government has not condemned the open threats being issued to those involved with the film, Union minister Irani decided to attack Shashi Tharoor for questioning Rajasthan’s erstwhile royalty (such as BJP MLA Diya Kumari) who had stood by the anti-Padmavati protestors. Tharoor had reportedly said that “so called valorous maharajas” had scurried to accommodate themselves when the British “trampled” over their honour and were now after a filmmaker, claiming that prestige was at stake. While Irani maintained her silence on the issue itself, she responded on Twitter: “Did all the Maharajs (kings) kneel in front of the British? What will Jyotiraditya Scindia, Diggi Raja (Digvijaya Singh) and Amarinder Singh say on Shashi Tharoor’s comments?”

Also read: Editorial – Rajasthan Government Must Ensure ‘Padmavati’ Is Released, Not Pander to Mobs

“Some blind followers of the BJP are spreading false propaganda that I’ve commented against Rajput honour. Speaking against British rule, I discussed those royals that stood by the side of our colonisers,” Tharoor responded. “Keeping our cultural diversity in mind, I will say fearlessly that it is our duty to respect the sentiments of the Rajput community. Their valour is a part of our history that can’t be questioned. BJP and the Censor Board should respect this.”

The story of Padmavati in Jayasi’s poem is that Delhi Sultan Allauddin Khilji (played by Ranveer Singh) was so enamoured by Padmavati that he wanted see her legendary beauty for himself. She was married to King Ratansen of Chittor (played by Shahid Kapoor), who refused to let Khilji see her – Rajput culture forbade women from meeting men they did not know well. Khilji then decided to invade the fort and Ratansen was defeated, the poem says. But by the time the sultan made his way into the fort to find Padmavati, she and 16,000 other woman had ended their lives in jauhar (self-immolation).

Padmavati is set to release on December 1. The 48th edition of IFFI is being held in Goa from November 20-28.

(With PTI inputs)

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