NEW DELHI, India – India’s Supreme Court rejected bids made by states of Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh on Tuesday. The Court declared it will stand by its initial ruling, clearing the way for the movie to be released for theaters.
Situation so far
The debate surrounds ‘distorting history’ as groups critical of the project claim that the film portrays a Muslim ruler as the “lover” of Queen Padmavati of the Hindu Rajput warrior clan. This charge is denied by the film makers.
While the film is set for national release for this upcoming weekend, theater owners from the two aforementioned states remain wary of releasing the film without explicit support from state governments. Sandeep Jain, who owns seven theaters in the state of Madhya Pradesh said, “When we approached the local police, we were told that we should show the film at our own risk.”
While right-wing and Conservative Hindu groups continue to hold protests across the country, it seems certain that this release will cause chaos and and maybe even violence.
This seems more about religious complex than about distorting history. This is not to say that the latter doesn’t carry any weight in this argument. Let me illustrate – imagine another period film being released that portrays the British Raj of India and plays around with facts and actual history. It beggars belief that these groups (or any for that matter) will protest the dissemination of that misinformed content.
Facts are important. Maybe the most important in today’s age. But to suggest this debate is driven by those motivations seem rather hypocritical. Communal tensions have come to the surface in India recently. Earlier, such films, or indeed any art, were absorbed with little to no resistance. It was clear that they were fictional and not representative of actual history (unless specifically mentioned). This distinction may help understand the source of this debate more clearly.
Personally, I have not watched the movie, nor have I a problem with depictions of history/art. What bothers me is the length to which certain individuals/groups will go to cloud a debate. The average consumer is intelligent and a simple disclaimer from the side of the producers, clearly stating that this bears no resemblance to history, ought to suffice.
Ultimately, free speech and related expressions is what make any country free. To limit that based on facts or even obscure motivations is downright dangerous. It is imperative that speech should be classed as fiction/reality/opinion. But to ban speech is ludicrous and non-democratic. ANY groups arguing against that must educate themselves.