After Karan Johar, it is Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s turn to issue a video to plead with the various forces that are threatening to disrupt his movie’s release. Ahead of the controversy-dogged Padmavati’s release on December 1, Bhansali has recorded a short video to address doubts over a dream sequence between Alauddin Khilji, played by Ranveer Singh, and Padmini, played by Deepika Padukone.
Padmavati is a retelling of the mythical tale of Khilji’s lust for Padmini, which led him to invade her kingdom Chittor in the fourteenth century. The big-budget movie is aiming for a wide release in 2D and 3D, and will also be dubbed in Tamil and Telugu.
Bhansali’s labour of love has been repeatedly attacked by right-wing and Rajput groups who claim that the topic is too sensitive to be filmed. There have been previous adaptations of the folklore, including two in Hindi by Jaswant Jhaveri, Jai Chitod (1961) and Maharani Padmini (1964), and the Tamil production Chittor Rani Padmini (1963) by Ch Narayana Murthy. As the release date nears, Bharatiya Janata Party leaders have been voicing threats against the production. Chintamani Malviya, the BJP MP from Ujjain, said in a Facebook post that directors like Bhansali “only understand the language of shoes” and that he would “not tolerate any distortion of our history”. Former Jaipur princess Daya Kumari, who is a BJP Member of the Legislative Assembly, also declared, “The director of the film Padmavati, Sanjay Leela Bhansali should not wrongly depict the story of Queen Padmavati of Chittor. He should get the facts in the film verified by a forum of historians and then release the film.”
In the video, which is Hindi, Bhansali makes a plea for his film to be released unmolested. “Padmavati has been made with a lot of honesty, responsibility and hard work,” he says. “I have always deeply inspired by Rani Padmini’s story and this film is a tribute to her honour and courage. But because of some rumours, the film has become the subject of a controversy. There is a rumour of Rani Padmini and Allaudin Khilji having a dream sequence. I have clarified this earlier and I am repeating through the video that there is no scene in the film between the characters that will hurt anyone’s sentiments. We have made the film with responsibility and kept the honour of Rajputs intact. So, there are no such dream sequence or any scene that will upset anyone.”