A film that sought to depict the 18th-century Mysore ruler Tipu Sultan as a “jihadi” and a “fanatic” has been shelved, the producer said in a press release on Monday.
“The film on Hazrat Tipu Sultan will not be made,” said Sandeep Singh, whose credits include the hagiography PM Narendra Modi (2019) and planned biopics on Hindutva icon VD Savarkar, former prime minister Atal Behari Vajpayee and Maratha emperor Shivaji.
He added: “I kindly request my fellow brothers and sisters to refrain from threatening or abusing my family, friends and me. I sincerely apologise if I have unintentionally hurt anyone’s religious sentiments. It was never my intention to do so, as I firmly believe in respecting all beliefs. As Indians, let us forever unite and always give respect to one another!”
In a previous press release, Singh had described Tipu as a “tyrant” who did not “deserve to be called a Sultan”. Singh added in a press statement issued in May: “I was brainwashed into believing him to be a braveheart as shown in our history textbooks. But nobody knows his malevolent side. I want to expose his dark side for the future generation.”
Tipu Sultan died fighting the British in 1799. As historian Kate Brittlebank has noted in her book on the ruler, Tipu “was the only Indian ruler who understood the dangers the British posed to India, and fought four wars to oust them from India – in that sense he could be called the first freedom fighter in the subcontinent”.
She added: “Tipu was a generous patron of several Hindu temples, including the Sri Ranganatha temple near his main palace at Srirangapattana, and the Sringeri Math, whose swami he respected and called Jagadguru.”
But in recent years, Hindtuva supporters have sought to depict him as a tyrant and a bigot. Singh’s statements about Tipu reflect these claims.
“We have known Tipu Sultan as a freedom fighter who courageously fought the British. History textbooks are replete with Tipu’s achievements – his skills bringing about administrative changes in his region and introducing innovative techniques in weaponry to combat enemies on the battlefield,” Singh had said in a press release. “But few know the dark – jihadi – side of Tipu, the fanatic Sultan.”
A poster for the proposed film released in May claimed that during Sultan’s rule, temples and churches were destroyed and 40 lakh Hindus were “converted to Islam and forced to eat beef”.
The film’s director, Rajat Sharma, had said in the press release: “What we are taught in school about Tipu Sultan is gross misinformation. As a Hindu, I stood absolutely shaken and disillusioned to know his reality as a bigoted Muslim king. Through my film I am daring to show a brutal reality that which has been manipulated just for us to take him to be a warrior hero. He had forced conversion of people who practised other religions, to Islam and destroyed temples and churches. Tipu Sultan’s Islamic fanaticism was much worse than his father’s, Hyder Ali Khan’s. He was a Hitler of that era.”
The biopic was based on research by Rajat Sethi. In the press release issued in May, Sethi had said: “While history has been unkind to many heroes, it has mischievously ignored the tyranny of many others. Tipu is one such historical figure whose adulation and admiration is overrated, while his cruelties have been neatly concealed in our textbooks. Not only history but popular culture – movies, theatres etc – have also systematically ignored a realistic and balanced portrayal of Tipu. This movie is a humble attempt to initiate a course correction on his narrative.”
The project was backed by Eros International and Rashmi Sharma Films. It was meant to be made in Hindi, Kannada, Tamil, Telugu and Malayalam.