Devdas, The Show Isn’t Over Yet

As Hindu epics-based television serials Ramayan and Mahabharat gather encore from Indian audiences locked-in by Caronavirus, I wondered what could come next in reach, frequency and impact. My search ended with films based on the Bengali novel, Devdas, by Sharat Chandra Chatterjee. However, they are distant second by millions of miles, understandably, because Devdas is not an epic, nor does it preach any faith, ideology or philosophy.

Of the 20 odd films, one or two can arguably be called classics. Again, together they are no match to cinema, theatre, art and literature springing from the epics and other scriptures. Cinema and Devdas are but a century-old. None compares to, say, Hollywood’s Ten Commandments. But that would be digressing.

The novel or the films have not attained mass popularity because they end tragically. Readers/viewers find that depressing. Chatterjee who wrote this semi-autobiography in 1900 did not publish till 1917. He was embarrassed, as per his son, having written under alcohol’s influence. He thought it lacked maturity, although it remains his most famous work.

Devdas is a tragic triangle. Temperamental and timid by turns, the protagonist baulks when childhood love Parvati (Paro), entering his bedroom at night, proposes marriage. Blaming himself, but also her, for the ‘mistake,’ he takes to booze and to Chandramukhi, a courtesan. She loves him hopelessly but he, unable to forget an unattainable Paro, dislikes her, even as he depends upon her.

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Devdas dominates child-Paro, even strikes her on the eve of her marriage. Class and caste divides of the 19th century Bengal determine his parents’ rejection of the alliance and hers retaliate by finding someone higher and richer, even if old.

This story of viraha (separation) and self-destruction ends with a nomadic and sick Devdas, keeping the promise made to Parvati of “one last meeting”, dies at her doorsteps. There is no reunion.

Devdas’ 20 odd film versions cover the Indian Cinema’s evolution. The first by Naresh Mitra, released in 1927, was ‘silent’.  In 1935, four years after Indian cinema went ‘talkie’, its director P C Barua also enacted the lead. The very next year, he directed K L Saigal and Jamuna, captivating imagination of the pre-Partition India’s cine-goers with their acting and haunting songs. Barua was not done: the Assamese version came in 1937.

In 1953, Vedantam Raghaviah made Tamil and Telugu versions. Both had Akkineni Nageswara Rao and Savithri playhing Devdas and Parvati.  Two decades later, Vijaya Nirmala directed and played Parvati in another Tamil version (1974).   

In southern India, Akkineni’s depiction of Devdasu is considered the ultimate. Stories have it that for Bimal Roy’s Hindi version (1955), Dilip Kumar repeatedly watched the Telugu film.  Purists think no actor can surpass their performances.  

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Devdas inspired passion and continuity. Roy was Barua’s cinematographer. That it triggered several re-makes over a long period is remarkable. It laid the most significant milestones in careers of all concerned. 

It’s difficult, also unfair perhaps, to compare different versions made in different times with varying literary, technological, artistic, even financial inputs. I venture to say – and I am not alone – that Roy, by now working in what became Bollywood, getting Dilip Kumar – reportedly for Rs one lakh, a ‘princely’ sum in those times — to pair with Bengal’s Suchitra Sen, and with Vyjayantimala playing Chandramukhi, Kamal Bose’ photography and S D Burman’s music, is the most significant version.   

Devdas, following Jogan (1950), Deedar (1951) and others where Dilip Kumar played melancholic characters, sealed his reputation as the “tragedy king”. It caused him psychological imbalance. But it also inspired many a young aspirant to flock to Mumbai to act in films.

Translating a literary work on celluloid is never easy. Capturing Bengal’s countryside, providing the right musical notes from Baul to Mujhra, and of course, writing, played their respective roles. Roy, it would seem, got the combination right.  

In one of this film’s iconic scenes, Chandramukhi pleads with Devdas that he has drunk excessively and more would harm him. Surrounded by bottles, he retorts in utter despair: “Kaun kambakht hai jo bardasht karne ke liye peeta hai… main to peeta hun ke bas saans le sakun.”

I am unable to translate these lines by Rajinder Singh Bedi. But they were more or less repeated 47 years later in Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s 2002 version.

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Unintended perhaps, there is continuity in the way Shahrukh Khan interpreted Devdas for Bhansali. Whether or not Kumar ‘learnt’ from Akkineni, Khan certainly emulated Kumar with whom he shares not only looks, but also ethnic/cultural roots. Think of the two Pathans hailing from Peshawar, interpreting a Bengali ‘bhadralok’!   

This ‘flexibility’ explains Devdas’ larger South Asian literary/cinematic reach, unaffected by India’s Partition. It has been filmed twice each in Pakistan (in Urdu 1965 and 2010) and Bangladesh (in Bengali in 1982 and 2013).  But it remains essentially Indian, with versions in Bengali, Hindi, Malayalam, Telugu and Assamese.  Most “non-Bengali” versions have been made post-Partition.

Generations have embraced Devdas. My father loved Saigal’s portrayal. Post-independence generations go gaga over Dilip’s. But my son prefers SRK’s colourful bonanza. One of the most lavishly mounted Bollywood venture, it was the first Indian film to be premiered at Cannes Film Festival.    

Sadly, I have seen only a few clips of Saigal. A Dilip admirer, I must confess to SRK’s interpretation growing on me as it were, on more viewings.

Film-makers by and large stuck faithfully to Chatterjee’s Devdas. But with the turn of the century, the current lot is taking artistic liberties. ‘Original’ Devdas went to Kolkata (then Calcutta) for studies. But Bhansali sent him to England, returning as a smoker, donning Western coat and hat. He lapses into dhoti-Panjabi ensemble when life gets tough and tragic. Incensed West Bengal lawmakers had demanded the film’s ban for its many ‘distortions’.

Among major actors of their times, besides Barua, Saigal and Akkineni, Kamal Haasan and SoumitraChaterjee played Devdas.    Parvati and Chandramukhi have been interpreted by Pakistan’s Shamim Ara and Banglaesh’s Kabori Chowdhur/Sarwar, Vijaya Nirmala (also its producer), Vyjayantimala, Supriya Chowdhury, Sridvi, Aishwarya Rai and Madhuri Dikshit.

Vyjayantimala was known to have rejected the Best Supporting Actor nomination, insisting that her Chandramukhi, and not Paro, is the real heroine. Her view can be compared to Ramayan being viewed from Ravan’s standpoint, not always Ram’s.

On Suchitra Sen’s passing away in 2014, however, she admitted to being acknowledged at the national level and by critics after she played alongside Suchitra.

Ironically, save a brief frame, the two did not share a single sequence. While Vyjayantimala shot in Bombay, Sen’s part was filmed in Bengal.

For Madhuri who played Bhansali’s Chandramukhi with great aplomb, it was vindication. Clutching her Filmfare Award, she chided her critics who had written her off as a fading star after her marriage and migration to the United States.

Of Devdas’ five modern-day takes, in Anurag Kashyap’s “Dev D” all three protagonists are into booze and sex. The setting is Punjabi. His Chandramukhi is a hippy-like call-girl painting Delhi red. 

In “Daas Dev” (2018) Sudhir Mishra borrows not just from Chatterjee’s novel but also from Shakespeare’s Hamlet to capture the dynamics of India’s dynastic politics.

In a sense, Devdas is India’s answer to Hamlet. Both have survived generations. Life does oscillate between hope and despair.  Many would question their relevance today, though, especially their failure to rebel against prevailing norms.

The only known survivor of the 1955 saga besides Vyjayantimala, Dilip once stated that his aim was “to convey the sense of hopelessness that pervades the relationship between Devdas and the two women and others who are a part of his doomed life without leading ardent viewers to cynicism and despondence.”

The mystique continues. Gulzar’s 1980s attempt, with Dharmendra (who had reportedly financed the venture), Sharmila Tagore as Parvati and Hema Malini as Chandramukhi was aborted, nobody knows why. The National Film Archives of India (NFAI) is searching the two reels Gulzar completed, but are missing.

In early 1960s, India lost its treasure of old films, including Devdas, in a fire in a Mumbai godown. The NFAI engaged in protracted talks with its Bangladeshi counterpart to retrieve the only surviving copy of the 1936 version found with a Chittagong film distributor. It was exchanged for Satyajit Ray’s Apu Triology.

The recovery of Devdas, film analyst Gautam Kaul recalls, was aptly celebrated with a ‘premier’ held at Nandan theatre in Kolkata.   

Great story-telling on cinema may elude in this era when a film-maker must stay commercially viable. Yet, last word may not have been said on Devdas.

The writer can be reached at mahendraved07@gmail.com

'Padmaavat' released amid tension, protests

I cannot believe what I’m seeing!!! @dp1stday1stshow what a show of pure genuine love & commitment!im not only touched & over joyed but extremely humbled seeing this absolutely unique initiative!lots & lots of love to each & every one of you!!!? #DP1stDay1stShow pic.twitter.com/HcP6NKl7Lm

— Deepika Padukone (@deepikapadukone) January 25, 2018 The Sanjay Leela Bhansali film, caught in a row that has lasted over a year, did not release in BJP-ruled Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat due to protests by Shri Rajput Karni Sena over alleged distortion of Rajput history. Some theatres in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh also did not screen it but most shows in Delhi, Mumbai and elsewhere attracted a good number of viewers. According to the Bhansali Productions and Viacom18 Motion Pictures, occupancy levels for shows were “very strong across more than 4,000 screens – with most running houseful”. “We are hopeful that every Indian – across all states – will get a chance to see the film especially as we celebrate our great nation’s 69th Republic Day,” a Viacom18 spokesperson said. Starring Deepika Padukone, Ranveer Singh and Shahid Kapoor, the movie is based on 16th century poet Malik Muhammad Jayasi’s famed “Padmavat”, widely regarded as a work of fiction. The Karni Sena had been up in arms against Bhansali since the movie’s inception over a romantic dream sequence involving Rajput queen Rani Padmavati and Muslim invader Alauddin Khilji — a scene which does not exist. Karni Sena remained adamant in its demand for a ban on the movie. But the Supreme Court on Tuesday cleared the decks for an all-India release. Still, it was not screened in 179 screens in Rajasthan on Thursday amid a shutdown called by the Karni Sena, whose activists took out a bike rally in Jaipur. Chittorgarh turned into a fortress with heavy police deployment while Nagaur, Banswara, Udaipur, Jodhpur, Sikar, Jaisalmer, Sawai Madhopur, Pratapgarh and Khetdi also witnessed the impact of the shutdown. In Madhya Pradesh, theatre owners voiced security concerns and did not release “Padmaavat”. They held talks with Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan and are hoping for a solution to the impasse. Protesters burned a car outside a theatre. (IANS) // ]]>

Padmavati gets U/A certificate, several cuts

Both Sanjay Leela Bansal and Prasoon Josh are happy about Padmavat, and they hope this compromise is acceptable to Narendra Mod and Rahul Gandh.#Padmavati

— Ramesh Srivats (@rameshsrivats) December 30, 2017 The decision was taken after an examining committee meeting was held on Thursday in presence of CBFC chief Prasoon Joshi. The special panel consisted of Arvind Singh from Udaipur, Dr Chandramani Singh and professor K.K. Singh of Jaipur University. According to the CBFC, the film was approached with a “balanced view keeping in mind both the filmmakers and the society”. The board asked for several cuts, and a name change, before giving the film the certification for showing in theatres in India. According to some reports, 26 cuts were ordered. Considering the complexities and concerns around the film, the requirement for a special panel was felt by CBFC “to add perspective to the final decision of the official committee,” the CBFC said. The final 3D application of the film was submitted to CBFC on Thursday (December 28). The certificate will be issued once the required modifications are carried out and final material submitted, the board said. “Padmavati”, which was earlier slated for release on December 1, got embroiled into controversies after the Karni Sena, an organisation of the Rajput community, urged a nationwide ban on the film claiming that it “distorts historical facts”. Members of the political organisation also physically assaulted Bhansali during the film’s shooting in Jaipur earlier this year. They even burnt the sets of the movie in outskirts of Mumbai. Later on, Bhansali appeared before a Parliamentary committee and maintained that the row over the yet-to-be released movie was just based on rumours, strongly rejecting charges that he had distorted “historical” facts about the possibly mythological Rajput queen, played by Deepika Padukone in the film. The row took an ugly turn when threats were issued against Bhansali and Deepika. “Padmavati” also features Ranveer Singh and Shahid Kapoor. (IANS) // ]]>

'All rumours': Padmavati director stands his ground

In the midst of a raging controversy over his film Padmavati, its director Sanjay Leela Bhansali on Thursday appeared before a Parliamentary committee here and maintained that the row over his yet-to-be released movie was just based on rumours, strongly rejecting criticism that he had distorted historical facts about the 16th century Rajput queen.

Bhansali was grilled for over two hours by members of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on IT as he appeared before it in Parliament House with Prasoon Joshi, who heads the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC). Sources said  that the filmmaker was asked why he had screened the movie for a few select journalists even before it was cleared by the censor board. “All the controversy over the film is based on rumours. I have not distorted facts. The film is based on a poem by Malik Muhammad Jayasi,” Bhansali said, referring to the 16th century Indian sufi poet’s epic poem Padmavat. “We don’t intend to hurt anyone’s sentiments,” Bhansali told the 30-member panel headed by BJP MP Anurag Thakur. Among those who attended the meeting included Congress’ Raj Babbar and BJP patriarch L.K. Advani. The director has been given time till December 14 to reply to the panel. The Parliamentary panel had asked him to attend its meeting to explain his point of view as several states have threatened to block the screening of the film, whose release was scheduled for Friday. The film stoked controversy over assumptions that it has a dream sequence depicting romance between Rajput warrior queen Padmini and Delhi sultan Alauddin Khilji. Joshi told the panel that the censor board was yet to take a decision about the movie as it would be shown to regional and central screening committees. Earlier in the day, the censor board chief also appeared before the Parliamentary Committee on Petitions to brief its members about the controversy. Joshi told the panel that the film had not yet been approved and the board only cleared the trailer and promos of the period film. The Rajput Karni Sena, an organisation of the Rajput community, has urged a nationwide ban on Bhansali’s Padmavati. Activists of the Sena and some other groups have been protesting against the movie, claiming it “distorts” historical facts. As six states, including Rajasthan, have already announced that they will not release the film, the Supreme Court on Tuesday took exception to people holding official positions making “prejudicial comments” about the movie, saying these breached the principle of rule of law. The apex court asked when the matter was pending for consideration before CBFC, how could persons in public authority comment on whether the censor board should issue certificate or not. (IANS) // ]]>

BJP's 'beheader' Ammu quits over Padmavati

Padmavati director Sanjay Leela Bhansali and lead actor Deepika Padukone. Then he spoke of ‘breaking the legs’ of another Padmavati actor, Ranvir Singh. The he turned his sights on West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee for saying the film was welcome in her state, saying she would lose her nose like Surpankha in the Ramayana. On Wednesday, he quit the party. Haryana BJP leader Surajpal Singh Ammu has resigned as the party’s Chief Media Coordinator in the state, sending his resignation to Bharatiya Janata Party state chief Subhash Barala through a WhatsApp message.

In his resignation, Ammu said he was upset with Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar’s “attitude towards the Rajput community”. The chief minister, according to him, was surrounded by “a few unwanted people and keeping himself away from loyalist party workers”. Ammu said he would pray to God so that “good sense” prevails on Khattar and requested that he be relieved of the party post’s responsibility. A delegation of Rajput leaders led by Ammu on Tuesday visited Haryana Bhawan in Delhi to meet Khattar and request him to fulfil their demand of announcing a ban on Padmavati in the state but the Chief Minister refused to meet them. Rajput leaders said they felt insulted by Khattar.

And Mulayam’s daughter-in-law does the Padmavati dance

Even as the controversy over Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Padmavati is yet to die down, a dance by Aparna Yadav, a daughter-in-law of Samajwadi Party leader Mulayam Singh Yadav, on the movie’s song has created a political furore. Aparna Yadav danced to the ‘Ghoomar’ song of the yet-to-be-released movie while celebrating her younger brother Aman Bisht’s engagement ceremony at a five-star hotel in Lucknow on Saturday, raising the hackles of elements opposed to the film.  In a video clipping which has since gone viral on the social media, Aparna Yadav is seen leading a group of women dancers on stage at the family function. The song has been picturised on Bollywood actor Deepika Padukone in the film.  “It is sad that a prominent political family’s member has chosen to behave in such a fashion. It is as if she is trying to tease us and rub salt in our wounds,” a leader of Karni Sena, which is bitterly opposing the movie’s release without changes, said. The Karni Sena is particularly miffed at this particular song which, it contends, shows Rajput women dancing in public, which is not a depiction of the reality of the past. Aparna Yadav, who is married to Mulayam Singh’s younger son Prateek, has spoken her mind openly on many political issues and ruffled feathers in the past.
On November 21, Ammu was booked for issuing threats to Bhansali and Deepika over their movie. But he stood by his announcement of Rs 10-crore reward for “beheading” them. Ammu said he gave the statements as a “Rajput” and not as a BJP leader.
Read at Lokmarg
Padmavati row : Deafening silence of top political leadership and Bollywood

Ammu also threated to break the legs of actor Ranveer Singh, who plays the role of Delhi Sultan Alauddin Khilji in the movie. The movie centres around the valour of Rajput queen Padmavati. Asked if he had received any notice from the BJP for his statement, Ammu told IANS: “No notice has been received. I’ll answer if I get one. I am ready to do anything for the welfare for my community.” Police officer Sunil Kumar said the accused would be served a notice soon to join the police probe.   (Reproduced tweets do not reflect Lokmarg editorial policy)  (with IANS) // ]]>

Padmavati threats not acceptable: V-P Naidu

Amid a raging row over “Padmavati”, Vice President M. Venkaiah Naidu on Saturday said that nobody has the right to take law into their hands, but at the same time nobody has the right to hurt others sentiments. Speaking at the inaugural session of the Times Litfest, Naidu emphasised that inciting violence or unlawful activities as a way of protest such as announcing bounty on some people’s heads was “unacceptable”. “Now this new problem has come related to some film. Some people feel that it is hurting the sentiments of this community or that community and then they protest. Some of them go out of the way and announce rewards. This is not acceptable,” he said, without naming anyone. “You have a right to protest in a democratic manner. Go to appropriate authorities and complain to them. Take the recourse in a democratic way but you cannot physically obstruct. And you cannot give violent threats,” he said. “You don’t have a right to take law into your hands. At the same time you don’t have the right to hurt the sentiments of others. That is a reality,” he said, adding that some people are quite “selective” in their criticism. He said respecting others’ sentiments and feelings is the “essence of our culture”. A controversy has been raging over Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s period drama “Padmavati” with several organisations, mainly from the Rajput community, opposing release of the movie on the grounds it “distorts history”. Fringe elements have also announced rewards on the heads of actress Deepika Padukone and film director Bhansali. The Deepika Padukone, Ranveer Singh and Shahid Kapoor starrer was scheduled to be released on December 1, but it has now been deferred. Referring to an article in a newspaper, Naidu said in the past too films have faced bans and obstructions and mentioned “Aandhi” and “Garam Hava” as some examples. “Aandhi” (1975) whose protagonist had striking similarities with the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, was banned after 26 weeks of release. “Garam Hava” was held up by the censor board for eight months.” Speaking on Parliamentary democracy, Naidu said that it was not important as to how many days Parliament meets, the important thing was for how many days “it functions”. Naidu said people have a right to disagree but first they “must learn to respect the majority and the people’s mandate”. Naidu also said that while dissent was agreeable, “disintegration is not acceptable”. “That is the bottom line and any attempt to undermine integrity and unity of India by forces inimical to growth of India must be nipped in the bud,” he said in reference to last year’ Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) controversy.

(IANS) // ]]>

Dead man is latest twist in Padmavati controversy

One Message on stone: We don’t just burn effigies, We hang – Padmavati Liberals: ?? Talibanization, Hindu Terror etc Other Messages: 1 Lootere nai Allah k bande hai 2 Har kafir ka ye haal hoga 3 Jo kaafir ko maarega, Alla ko pyara hoga Liberals: ??Attempt for Communal Tension

— Anshul Saxena (@AskAnshul) November 24, 2017 Deputy Commissioner of Police Satyendra Singh said that the dead man had been identified as Chetan Saini, a resident of Jaipur’s Shastri Nagar who ran a jewellery and handicrafts business. Singh said it was not clear if it was murder or suicide and that it would be too early to relate the messages on the rocks to “Padmavati”. The Rajput Karni Sena, which is most vocal against the movie, denied any involvement in the case. “We express complete disapproval of it and deny our involvement in any manner,” Vivek Singh Shekhawat, the Rajasthan General Secretary of the group said. The release of the Hindi film, earlier scheduled for December 1, has been deferred. Bhansali continued to get the support of the film fraternity. Prosenjit Chatterjee said “directors will stop doing historical films the way it has been handled”. Rani Mukerji said she stood by Bhansali: “He knows that I back him, love him. He is my darling and Sanjay truly believes how much I love him and he knows how I stand by him.”

TwitterLok

  (Reproduced tweets do not reflect Lokmarg editorial policy) (IANS) // ]]>

Padmavati cleared for UK, Karni Sena says fight on

Padmavati protest may go global soon with Rajput Karni Sena president Sukhdev Singh Gogamedi declaring their fight to ban the film will continue in Britain. Speaking to Republic TV, Gogamedi said,”Our Rajput brothers, our Hindu brothers in England (sic) will be asked to continue the protest there.” Gogamedi told the TV channel that his passport stands impounded because of his role in civil unrest related to a reservation protest led by the Sena or he would have gone himself. Saying the Sena would approach the World Court as well the authorities in Britain, he repeated the Sena’s earlier threat: “Any theatre that screens the film will be burnt down.”

Earlier on Thursday, as the British censors cleared the controversial film Padmavati for release on December 1, and India’s apex court said it will hear on November 28 a fresh plea seeking to block the release of the Sanjay Leela Bhansali movie outside India.

A source close to the film’s makers said Padmavati won’t release anywhere on December 1 — its original release date which was deferred after the Indian censor board returned their application on grounds that it was incomplete. “We are not releasing the film anywhere on December 1,” the source told IANS. A petitioner told the Supreme Court in New Delhi that “grave damage would be done to social harmony if the movie was allowed to be released abroad”. According to the official website of the British Board Of Film Classification (BBFC), Padmavati will be released “uncut” in the UK. But its release will now have to wait. The makers are yet to secure a censor certificate in India, where Chief Ministers of at least four states have taken a stand against the release of the historical drama. Starring Deepika Padukone with Ranveer Singh and Shahid Kapoor in key roles, the magnum opus tells the tale of Rani Padmavati, the legendary Mewar queen known for her beauty and intelligence as well as courage, her husband Maharawal Ratan Singh, a Rajput warrior king who fought to defend his kingdom and wife’s honour, and Sultan Alauddin Khilji. The movie, Bhansali says, is a tribute to the valour of legendary queen Padmavati. It is mired in controversy in India as Hindu groups backed by the BJP are up in arms against alleged “distortion of historical facts”. Bhansali has repeatedly rebuffed the charges but has been receiving brickbats. A Haryana BJP leader had even offered a reward of Rs 10 crore to anyone who would “behead” Bhansali and the film’s lead actress. Such reactions have disturbed members of the film fraternity. Masaan director Neeraj Ghaywan” and Pihu helmer Vinod Kapri expressed concern, while veteran actor-politician Shatrughan Sinha questioned Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s silence on the controversy. Shatrughan Sinha, a BJP MP, said: “I’d like to say it’s too late for our dynamic Prime Minister and the other high command to stay silent. Padmavati is a raging issue. And the fringe elements are openly issuing threats. How can the high command keep quiet when goons are threatening to behead Bhansali and Deepika Padukone? “It’s time for our honourable Prime Minister to say ‘enough is enough’. If you give the goons a free reign, they will continue to cross limits in ways we wouldn’t be able to control,” he said.

TwitterLok

  (Reproduced tweets do not reflect Lokmarg editorial policy)
(IANS)
// ]]>

'We're ready for violence': Karni Sena on warpath

Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Padmavati is far from lighting up big screens in India but the Shri Rajput Karni Sena is a super-hit already, making headlines across the nation and hogging prime time across channels. Swords are being flashed in public, and Karni Sena clones are talking of beheading or maiming the actress who plays the lead role. The man at the focus of the Sena’s exertions against Bollywood’s historical forays is Lokendra Singh Kalvi. Describing himself in a recent interview as 6-foot-4 and 118 kilos, Kalvi flirted with both the Congress and Bharatiya Janata Party for years before launching his Rajput organisation in 2006.  Here’s a Lokmarg report:   “Sanjay Leela Bhansali is a jihadi,” Shiv Kumar Raghav of the Shri Rajput Karni Sena told Lokmarg on Wednesday, the day his organisation’s top brass descended on Delhi’s Press Club to interact with the media on the Padmavati controversy. “All the cinema halls in India that screen the movie will be set on fire,” he said, invoking the term jauhar—the ritual mass immolation that is the stuff of Rajput legend—for his dire prediction. “Rajputs are ready to resort to violent means if our history is distorted.” Raghav got his lead from Sena supremo Lokendra Singh Kalvi. Addressing the media, Kalvi declared that the “reels of the film should be put inside a box and be committed to jauhar.” Kalvi’s campaign against the distortion of history in a yet unreleased film about a 14-th century ruler of the Delhi Sultanate period and his siege of a fortress in the Rajputana of that time has gathered nationwide momentum, jumping from the fringes into the political mainstream. At last count, three Bharatiya Janata Party chief ministers and one from the Congress were against screening of the film in their states. Asked about his campaign against the film, Kalvi told Lokmarg: “People across parties and communities have come out in support of a ban on Padmavati. Bhansali despite being slapped decided to go ahead with project. Karni Sena maintains will not allow the film to run. Bhansali doesn’t want to show it to us; he never contacted us. So, there’s no chance of any change in view.” Strong-arm tactics The Karni Sena got off to a start in 2008 with its campaign against Jodha Akbar, an Ashutosh Gowarikar film based on Mughal emperor Akbar. The ‘historical inaccuracies’ the Sena raged against meant several states banned the film. The matter went to the Supreme Court then and the ban was lifted, but letters written in blood by Karni Sena members to theatre owners in Rajasthan meant the ban, in effect, stayed. The Sena then took on Ekta Kapoor for producing a TV serial on the same topic, some members allegedly unleashing violence on a Jaipur office of the channel that broadcast it. The Sena, whose Facebook page says it has 7 lakh committed members, remains enmeshed in student politics, which in Rajasthan boils down to centuries of bad blood between Rajputs and Jats, an agrarian community that has, with the exception of two districts, always felt oppressed in the state. Bollywood has churned out a few hit films on this feud.


The Karni Sena

  • A caste group of Rajputs, the princely landowning caste most associated with Rajasthan, it was formed in 2006
  • It does not have a website, but describes itself on a Facebook page as a nationalistic social organisation
  • It claims 700,000 committed members but has a deeper reach in Rajasthan and its border regions with other states
  • It is against Padmavati because it ‘distorts history’ and ‘wrongly depicts’ the legendary Rajput queen
More recently, the Sena came out in support of Anandpal Singh, a dreaded gangster from Nagaur who was killed in a police encounter in June this year. Anandpal, a Rajput, had become a mythical Robin Hood character who ended the free run of many rival gangs of Jats in the state, escaped from jail, and was killed in what the Sena said was a staged encounter. A CBI probe was demanded; civil unrest ensued in Nagaur, and Anandpal was secretly cremated by the police weeks after his death. The Sena was at the focus of all it all when a condolence meet ended with a vow to vote against the BJP in the next elections. Rajputs, a princely landowning caste group, make up about 10% of the state’s population but have very high weightage in Rajasthan’s politics. The Karni Sena’s influence, in turn, is far more than its membership suggests. The Sena suffered a great deal of embarrassment in September when the organisation’s president, Sukhdev Singh Gogamedi, was secretly filmed by a news channel striking a protection deal for the bait of a period film about a Mughal emperor and a Rajput princess. Gogamedi, who posts on YouTube, said the video was doctored and threatened the channel with legal action. He’s been at the forefront of the Padmavati campaign this year. The Karni Sena ran riot on a set of the film in Jaipur this January, slapping Sanjay Leela Bhansali in the process. Videos of the violence went viral. In March, a room in the Chittorgarh fort related to the legend of Queen Padmavati was vandalised.  Then a set in Kolhapur was wrecked by arsonists. Bhansali was forced to meet Sena leaders. They say he allayed their fears and promised to show them the finished film before beginning the process of its release. After the BJP on November 2 sought a postponement of Padmavati’s release from the Election Commission over what it said was wrong depiction of history that would hurt some communities , there’s been no stopping the Sena.
  // ]]>

Karni Sena brings Modi into Padmavati picture

Gujarat joins the ban club 

Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani on Wednesday declared that the his government would not allow release of Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s “Padmavati” in the poll-bound state. “There is a lot of sensitivity in Kshatriya and Rajput communities with regards to certain depiction of history. We respect their feelings and with elections on the anvil, the state government does not want any controversy. Besides that the law and order is also our responsibility, so we have decided that we will not allow release of movie ‘Padmavati’ in Gujarat,” he said. Rupani also said that the ban was not only limited to the state assembly polls which will be held in December “but till the controversies subside”. Asked by media whether he had seen the controversial movie or not before taking such a decision, he said that it was not required. “I have met several people who have expressed anguish and anger against the movie. It has hurt their sentiments bad and we respect their point of view.” Asked whether this announcement by the Chief Minister of banning the film amounted to violation of the model code of conduct which is in effect in the state, state chief electoral officer B.B. Swain said: “I don’t know. I will have to check the matter and decide.”
At an earlier press conference here, Kalvi said he had already garnered the support of Chief Ministers of four states. “I will make it from four to 14 till the next date is decided. I am meeting three more Chief Ministers in the next two days. This film will not run,” he said. He said his appeal to Modi to “intervene” in the controversy was merely via the media. Do they plan to make a written appeal to Modi? “We will make a written appeal to PM if there’s a need. I haven’t written any appeal to any Chief Minister or the Prime Minister…. I am going to Maharashtra… They will ban it, I am confident,” Kalvi told IANS. Karni Sena has been up in arms against Bhansali since he began shooting the film and had even assaulted him on the sets of his film in Jaipur last year over fears that the movie showcases objectionable scenes. Now, it is calling for a ban. Will the Karni Sena go to the Supreme Court? Kalvi said: “There’s no need. We are in the people’s court and it has a lot of strength.” But the apex court has already rejected two pleas regarding the stalling of the film. “Those were pleas by over-excited people who have no evidence,” Kalvi said. Calling Bhansali a “repeat offender”, Kalvi said: “He does opposite of what he says and never does what he says. Why did they leave the section of genre in the censor board application form blank? He knew whether he writes historical or fiction, he will land in trouble.”

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(IANS) // ]]>