Padmavati Controversy Goes International; Experts Feel It Is Unfortunate

They don’t know fact from fiction about fabled Rajput queen Padmavati, but the uproar over Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Padmavati has made visiting international movie talent here sit up and take note of how autocratic and dangerous voices and actions are infringing on freedom of expression in India’s film industry.

Iranian filmmaker Majid Majidi and Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) artistic director Cameron Bailey, who were at the just-concluded 48th International Film Festival of India (IFFI), were vocal in their support for Bhansali.

“Artistes face this kind of situations because of the talent and desire they have. That extends to filmmakers too. They should not stop innovation in their work because of adverse conditions,” Majidi said on the opening day of the festival.

'Padmavati' row 'dangerous' in the foreign film world's eyes
Padmavati Controversy Goes International; Experts Feel It Is Unfortunate

He was among a string of artistes and filmmakers who visited IFFI, which itself was caught in a controversy over the exclusion of two films — S. Durga and Nude — from its Indian Panorama section. The brouhaha over these and Padmavati — which is under attack for alleged distortion of facts — became a crucial talking point throughout the fest.

Michael J. Werner, a film and media strategic consultant who attended the Film Bazaar here, told IANS: “I think it is a dangerous trend because you shouldn’t have a government dictating history. What is happening with this particular movie (Padmavati) seems to be a minister or a department or a state saying that we don’t accept that representation of history.”

“I don’t know whether it is factual or not, but it is still a kind of an autocratic response.”

Padmavati, which sets out to tell the tale of the valour and courage of Rani Padmavati, whose historicity is in doubt, has been under the scanner since its shoot began. Its National Award-winning director was assaulted and the set vandalised in Jaipur by Rajput organisation Karni Sena over the conjecture that the movie will feature intimate scenes between the characters of Padmavati and the invader Alauddin Khilji.

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