The Daily Fix

The Daily Fix: Why is the BJP enabling bullies trying to stall the release of ‘Padmavati’?

Everything you need to know for the day (and a little more).

The Big Story: Industry of hurt

As always in this country, the industry of hurt sentiments is doing well, even showing robust annual growth. In its latest project, it attempts to stall the release of Padmavati, a film directed by Sanjay Leela Bhansali. Days after the Supreme Court refused a plea to stay the release, the Mewar royal family wrote to the Central Board of Film Certification reiterating the demand. Meanwhile in Surat, there were massive protests mobilised by the Karni Sena and other “Rajput and Hindu groups” who claim the movie has “distorted” historical facts. Adding to the clamour, Bharatiya Janata Party legislators from various parts of the country have set themselves against the film, making opposition to it a test of “patriotism”. This after the film sets were repeatedly vandalised and Bhansali himself attacked in January, even as the filmmaker gave anxious assurances that Padmavati was meticulously researched and the honour of the legendary queen had been left intact.

The movie is said to be centred on the story of Rani Padmini, or Padmavati, the beautiful queen of Chittor who immolated herself to evade the clutches of Alauddin Khilji, the marauding ruler of Delhi. While Khilji did lay siege to Chittor in 1303, the rest is not strictly history. The earliest mention of the queen is found in Malik Muhammad Jayasi’s epic poem, Padmavat, written around 1540. The poem takes inspiration from an earlier epic, though it replaces the cast of characters. It also draws on rich traditions of oral history and Sufi philosophy. Padmavati’s tale, then, is part myth, part allegory, part history and mostly joyful storytelling. Later, of course, it becomes vital to a warrior clan’s self-fashioning. The queen may or may not have existed and Khilji may or may not have had lascivious designs on her. The Khilji played by Om Puri in a 1980s Doordarshan series is a pragmatic but authoritarian statesman, very different from Ranveer Singh’s portrayal of a savage king of vast appetites. The Doordarshan episodes begin with the disclaimer that Padmavat is illustrative of the traditions of the time and cannot make claims to historical accuracy. Where did this nuanced understanding of events, shown even by a stodgy state broadcaster, disappear? Since when did Padmavati have to answer to the demands of history?

A troubling aspect of this recent episode is the ruling party’s tacit consent to the harangue, with some of its legislators even joining in. The BJP-led government in Rajasthan did little to protect the movie sets or crew from attack. A day after they were vandalised in March, a senior state minister even said that the film should be screened for and vetted by the Karni Sena. Meanwhile, Union Minister Uma Bharti’s offered solution is to form a panel consisting of historians, filmmakers, protestors and the censor board to resolve the controversy. Such a step would be conceding victory to bullies, to be saying that the arts must be policed and censored if they cannot please everybody. The government of a democratic country needs to send out the message that a filmmaker has the right to make the film he wants, just as audiences have the right not to watch it if they do not want.

The Big Scroll

Devarsi Ghosh writes on Om Puri’s Alauddin Khilji, more interested in Chittor’s jewels than in its legendary queen.

Malik Muhammad Jayasi’s epic poem is fiction, to call it established history would be to distort facts, writes Ruchika Sharma.

Punditry

  1. In the Indian Express, Darryl d’Monte writes that Delhi has become the world’s air pollution outcaste, and its decisionmakers do no understand the consequences.
  2. In the Hindu, Reetika Khera argues that Aadhaar does nothing for the battle against graft.
  3. In the Telegraph, Manini Chatterjee finds that most Indians are ignorant of Kashmir’s history and what autonomy means in that context.

Giggles

Don’t miss...

Kumar Sambhav Srivastava writes that the Centre has the powers to control pollution in Delhi but is passing the buck:

  In Delhi, however, the central government has decided to act as a coordinator rather than a leader in tackling the pollution crisis. On November 9, as severe smog precipitated a public health emergency in the city, the environment ministry constituted a “high level committee to propose and monitor solutions to air pollution”. The next day, it called a meeting of officials from Delhi and neighbouring states and told them to “strictly implement” existing regulations and the Supreme Court’s orders on tackling air pollution. It could have done much more. “Under the Environment Protection Act, the central government has complete executive powers to do whatever it deems necessary to stop environmental pollution,” said environment lawyer Ritwick Dutta.  

Support our journalism by subscribing to Scroll+ here. We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.
Sponsored Content BY 

Tracing the formation of Al Qaeda and its path to 9/11

A new show looks at some of the crucial moments leading up to the attack.

“The end of the world war had bought America victory but not security” - this quote from Lawrence Wright’s Pulitzer-Prize winning book, ‘The Looming Tower’, gives a sense of the growing threat to America from Al Qaeda and the series of events that led to 9/11. Based on extensive interviews, including with Bin Laden’s best friend in college and the former White House counterterrorism chief, ‘The Looming Tower’ provides an intimate perspective of the 9/11 attack.

Lawrence Wright chronicles the formative years of Al Qaeda, giving an insight in to Bin Laden’s war against America. The book covers in detail, the radicalisation of Osama Bin Laden and his association with Ayman Al Zawahri, an Egyptian doctor who preached that only violence could change history. In an interview with Amazon, Wright shared, “I talked to 600-something people, but many of those people I talked to again and again for a period of five years, some of them dozens of times.” Wright’s book was selected by TIME as one of the all-time 100 best nonfiction books for its “thoroughly researched and incisively written” account of the road to 9/11 and is considered an essential read for understanding Islam’s war on the West as it developed in the Middle East.

‘The Looming Tower’ also dwells on the response of key US officials to the rising Al Qaeda threat, particularly exploring the turf wars between the FBI and the CIA. This has now been dramatized in a 10-part mini-series of the same name. Adapted by Dan Futterman (of Foxcatcher fame), the series mainly focuses on the hostilities between the FBI and the CIA. Some major characters are based on real people - such as John O’ Neill (FBI’s foul-mouthed counterterrorism chief played by Jeff Daniels) and Ali Soufan (O’ Neill’s Arabic-speaking mentee who successfully interrogated captured Islamic terrorists after 9/11, played by Tahar Rahim). Some are composite characters, such as Martin Schmidt (O’Neill’s CIA counterpart, played by Peter Sarsgaard).

The series, most crucially, captures just how close US intelligence agencies had come to foiling Al Qaeda’s plans, just to come up short due to internal turf wars. It follows the FBI and the CIA as they independently follow intelligence leads in the crises leading up to 9/11 – the US Embassy bombings in East Africa and the attack on US warship USS Cole in Yemen – but fail to update each other. The most glaring example is of how the CIA withheld critical information – Al Qaeda operatives being hunted by the FBI had entered the United States - under the misguided notion that the CIA was the only government agency authorised to deal with terrorism threats.

The depth of information in the book has translated into a realistic recreation of the pre-9/11 years on screen. The drama is even interspersed with actual footage from the 9/11 conspiracy, attack and the 2004 Commission Hearing, linking together the myriad developments leading up to 9/11 with chilling hindsight. Watch the trailer of this gripping show below.

Play

The Looming Tower is available for streaming on Amazon Prime Video, along with a host of Amazon originals and popular movies and TV shows. To enjoy unlimited ad free streaming anytime, anywhere, subscribe to Amazon Prime Video.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Amazon Prime Video and not by the Scroll editorial team.