Bollywood director Sanjay Leela Bhansali has run into trouble with 23-year-old ‘activist’ Hardik Patel who made national headlines in 2015 by being at the forefront of the Patidar Reservation Agitation. Patel has asked Bhansali to stop shooting his upcoming historical film Padmavati to assuage the concerns of the Rajput Sena. In an interview with the Mumbai Mirror, Patel said, “Rajasthan-based Rajput Sena’s members met me and informed that SLB has not studied the history, and could damage the image of Rani Padmavati. So, we’ve informed him to stop the production of the film and hold discussions with Rajput leaders before he begins shooting.”
Padmavati, Bhansali’s ambitious project, reportedly stars Deepika Padukone, Shahid Kapur and Ranveer Singh, and tells the story of Rani Padmini of Chitor, who committed jauhar when faced with the prospect of succumbing to the unwanted attentions of Alauddin Khilji. In the upcoming film adaptation, Deepika Padukone will play the titular role, Shahid will essay the role of her husband, King Rawal Ratan Singh. Padukone’s real-life boyfriend Ranveer Singh will reportedly play the role of the villain of this period film, Alauddin Khilji.
Interestingly, Bhansali had staged an opera version of this story in Paris a few years earlier. According to reports, the director had done extensive research on Rani Padmini’s history and was confident of making an accurate depiction of the events onscreen.
Some hardline activists do not seem to share the same opinion. Especially since Bhansali’s 2015 release Bajirao Mastani was slammed by some critics and descendants of Peshwa Baji Rao (on whom the film was based) for distorting facts. A petition was even filed by a Pune resident, Firoze Mohammad Shaikh, seeking a ban on the film. While these issues were eventually resolved, they only add credence to the accusations made by the Rajput Sena. The story of Rani Padmini is beloved to the Rajput clan and it forms the basis of poet Malik Muhammad Jayasi’s epic Padmavat.
Meanwhile, Patel has threatened to block the film’s release if Sanjay Leela Bhansali did not accede to their demands.
“Bhansali should give assurance of not damaging Rani Padmavati’s image, or else Patidar Navnirman Sena will hold protests against the movie across the country, and will not give permission for the film to release in Rajasthan. No director has the right to damage history for entertainment,” Patel added.
Bhansali has not yet made a comment on the issue.