By Sushil Kutty
The irony is Sanjay Leela Bhansali caters to the same base instincts that the media accuses the “fringe” of. Bhansali’s Allauddin Khilji is pictured a violent sultan who wears his vices on his sleeve. He is a womanizer who rapes his wife. A glutton who gorges on mounds of mutton and beef, fingers oozing blood. He kills with a leer and a laugh. He makes love like a maniac. He is the barbarian on the loose. Deepika Padukone’s ‘Padmavati’ and Shahid Kapoor’s ‘Raja Ratan Singh’ are there to prop up centre-piece Ranveer Singh’s Allauddin Khilji. Don’t be surprised if Muslim fanatics jumped into the boiling set. AIMIM fanatic and Lok Sabha MP Assauddin Owaisi spoke of the “gandi galeech filum” the other day.
Sanjay Leela Bhansali with the sprawling eye is bereft of any sensitivity. He and CBFC chief Prasoon Joshi are in cahoots. They changed the title from Padmavati to Padmaavat but throughout the movie Deepika’s character is called “Rani Padmavati”. Bhansali is after all a businessman more than a creative director. The man did not condemn when Deepika’s nose became a topic of sword-meat. Neither did Ranveer and Shahid. It was good publicity even if negative publicity. The movie is booked to the rafters in states other than the bad four. Cash registers have been ringing louder than the rebel cries of the Rajput. Bhansali is laughing all the way from box office to the banks.
It helps that the media is completely in awe of Padmaavat. #IndiaWithPadmaavat and #IndiaDefeatsKarniSena are hash tags with which the TV media is feeding the Padmaavat frenzy in an India without Rajasthan, Gujarat, Haryana and Madhya Pradesh in the geography. The television media is “sold out”. But overnight calls from celebrity anchors for the arrest of “Karni Sena goons” go unanswered. Arnab Goswami, Zaka Jacob, Rajdeep Sardesai… These are the people who are going beyond “duty calls” to promote the movie. Goswami invited accusations of “sold out” and “Bakwaas Sena Head” from Rajput panellists on his TV show. Jacob lost his head and voice on live TV. Sardesai, true to his leanings, questioned Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s speech in Davos, asking and declaring, “Why is Prime Minister silent? Hooliganism and foreign direct investments cannot go together Mr Prime Minister.” Who is Sardesai speaking for? Is the television media completely in Bhansali’s pocket?
Eighty percent theatres and multiplexes in Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Rajasthan and Haryana refused to screen the movie. Maharashtra, Bihar and Punjab, too. As also Uttarakhand, which is 59 percent Rajput, and Uttar Pradesh. The story of the day is four states of the Indian Union are outside the scope of the law of the land. But what is the media gloating about: “Running to packed houses” and “India Snubs Fringe”. This even before cinema halls opened for cinegoers. There are no queues outside cinema theatres. Only policemen leaning on bamboo.
Violence permeates, threatens the streets and highways. The images are graphic: A school attacked in Haryana the day before. Cowering children shown in the “loop”. Charred remains of motorbikes in Gujarat – flames licking the dark. Celebrity anchors shouting their lungs out. Faces suffused ‘red’. Arnab Goswami losing his cool is not new but Zaka Jacob matching him shout for shout is.
Outside the TV studios, on the street and at cinema halls, there is a “Janata Curfew”. One Rajput says he has dug three graves in his village where Bhansali, Padukone and somebody not named will be buried. He is invited, baited and ridiculed on live TV. He is goaded to “walk out” if he “wants to”. He is provoked to level threats and then accused of levelling threats! The TV media’s ugly face cannot get enough of playing favourite. There is no reporting. Only posturing. Sanjay Leela Bhansali need not go looking for villains. They are there among the tribe of television anchors.
By D-day, the narrative has changed to “BJP is backing the fringe” and “Congress is backing the fringe”; from Digvijay Singh of the Congress to Gen. VK Singh of the BJP, both are in the dock. “Is there some kind of tacit understanding?” asks a suddenly enlightened TV anchor. The Shree Rajput Karni Sena sets up a six-member panel of erstwhile royals and historians to watch the movie and deliver verdict. A last ditch effort to put the spanners on the works. If Padmaavat fails the test, an ordinance to ban the film from Prime Minister Narendra Modi, no less. “Within 24 hours”, says the press note.
“We know that the filmmaker is doing nothing but drama in the name of pre-screening. We were never against the film’s screening but he should make sure that the suggestions our members give should be considered and changes should be made accordingly,” says Karni Sena patron Lokendra Kalvi. Bhansali is no mood to relent. Two contempt notices have been moved in the apex court against Karni Sena by the producers of Padmaavat.
On Padmaavat Day, before Republic Day, all the chips are in place. It is political – right-wing versus left-wing, Congress versus BJP. Sanjay Leela Bhansali is playing one against the other. The media is completely in awe of Padmaavat and its real producer, the moneybag who cannot be named! Doesn’t matter if a bus burns and children cower. It is all in the “loop”. Candid camera doesn’t lie. The quote unquote “State” is reluctant to “hurt” agitators. Padmaavat is an “issue”. Political parties, the State, the media and Sanjay Leela Bhansali, all are in cahoots – the filmmaker for the money, the media for the TRP and politicians to reap political capital. All the “fringe”, no matter how you look at them, and how they look. (IPA Service)
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