New Delhi: Hindutva groups in Dindigul, Tamil Nadu disrupted the filming of action-comedy Sulthan, starring Karthi and Rashmika Mandanna and directed by Bakkiyaraj Kannan, because they thought it was a biopic of Tipu Sultan.
The film was being shot near an Archaeological Survey of India protected site on Tuesday night, when members of the Bharatiya Janata Party and Hindu Munnani arrived and staged protests.
A police officer told the Indian Express that while there was no damage, the shooting schedule was disrupted. “They were in the final stage of shooting. Local cadres of Hindu Munnani and BJP organised and marched to the location near a site protected by the ASI… They organised and marched to the area believing a news report that the movie’s name was not Sultan but ‘Tipu Sultan’. As the mob refused to leave the area even after they were briefed about the original story, the film crew left the place with all valuable equipment.”
Dream Warrior Pictures, the producers of Sulthan, issued a statement that clarified what the film was about, and also condemned groups that disrupted movie shootings or screenings just because they may disagree with the subject matter.
“There is a censor board to ensure what is not to be shown in a movie. Apart from this, the right to decide what to portray in a movie lies with its creators. This is the freedom and protection provided to us by our country’s law. Hence, we strongly condemn any efforts made by any organisation or individual to stifle the freedom of creators,” read the Tamil statement, according to the The News Minute.
“We also condemn activities that identify the lives of our historical and national leaders on the basis of caste and religion thereby bringing disrepute to their lives and our history,” the producers continued.
— DreamWarriorPictures (@DreamWarriorpic) September 26, 2019
The right-wing and BJP have a history of attempting to paint Tipu Sultan as an anti-Hindu bigot, and slamming anyone who may want to celebrate or even historically analyse his rule from a different perspective. In July this year, the Karnataka government under B.S. Yeddyurappa cancelled ‘Tipu Jayanti’ celebrations in the state, which had been initiated by the Congress. “Our Govt has cancelled observing controversial & communal Tippu Jayanti,” the state chief minister said then on Twitter.
Several historians and analysts have talked about how Tipu Sultan – and rulers reviled by the Hindu Right like Aurangzeb – need to be understood in the context of their times, and not simply painted as black or white. In Tiger: The Life of Tipu Sultan, for instance, historian Kate Brittlebank gave more nuanced and holistic view of the man and the monarch, who, she says, was a product of his times.
Writing in The Wire, Manoj Joshi too made a similar argument:
“If history is your guide, there can be no peace in the world. The Chinese must fight the Japanese, the Russians cannot have peace with the French and the Germans, the British must finish off the French and the whole world must stamp out the Mongols.
Applying modern norms and beliefs to medieval events is a mug’s game, but it’s a very useful one in contemporary Indian politics. After all, the sangh parivar successfully convinced the masses that Lord Rama was actually born in our world at a place called Ayodhya and at the very spot where the Babri masjid stood, in the process harvesting considerable political dividends for the BJP.
Now, the target is Karnataka and in Tipu Sultan the sangh believes it has found a convenient villain.”