Kangana Ranaut, the National Award-winning Hindi actor, was sent a legal notice by author Ashish Kaul for refusing to acknowledge his book, Didda: The Warrior Queen of Kashmir, while announcing her new film Manikarnika Returns: The Legend of Didda, which is based on Queen Didda.
According to Kaul, who is a descendant of the queen, his book is the only historical and non-fictional account on Queen Didda and Ranaut’s film draws facts from his book.
Kaul’s action comes not only as a claim over the narrative of his book, which released in 2019, but also a “rightful claim to preserve his family’s legacy as the descendants of the Kashmiri queen”.
“I was already working on Didda for the simple reason that Didda is the story of my family,” he told Silverscreen India.
“I have been working on the life and times of Queen Didda and 12 other women. So, overall, there are 13 women’s stories that I am working on and each woman has been forgotten by history. I was commissioned by the Indira Gandhi Centre for the Arts and Culture in Delhi (under the Information and Broadcasting Ministry) to do a research monograph and a documentary on these 13 women. This was in 2018,” he said.
Kaul directed a 60- minute long film, Streedesh, based on the life and times of Didda and the other 12 women. While it has already been approved by the Central Board of Film Certification, it will be released soon by the Indira Gandhi Centre for the Arts.
On January 14, Ranaut announced that she would be working on Manikarnika Returns with the story of the Kashmiri queen who “defeated Mahmud of Ghazni not once but twice”.
Ranaut’s previous film Manikarnika: The Queen of Jhansi (2019) was based on the life of the legendary Rani Lakshmi Bai of Jhansi. The film, in which she played the titular role, courted controversy after its director Krish Jagarlamudi called out Ranaut for allegedly “hijacking” the film. Ranaut was credited as the the film’s director along with Jagarlamudi.
हमारा भारतवर्ष साक्षी रहा है झाँसी की रानी जैसे कई वीरांगनाओं की कहानी का. ऐसी ही एक और अनकही वीरगाथा है कश्मीर की एक रानी की, जिसने महमूद गजनवी को एक नहीं, दो बार हराया. ले कर आ रहे हैं @KamalJain_TheKJ और मैं, #ManikarnikaReturns: The Legend of Didda 🙏 pic.twitter.com/sgrqkqilj6
— Kangana Ranaut (@KanganaTeam) January 14, 2021
Kaul said, “She (Kangana) still does not understand that Didda is my family’s legacy. She says that it (Didda’a legend) is a historical fact. Now, this is the only grey area. Because there’s only one book in the whole world that mentions queen Didda- it is Rajatarangini– which holds the history of Kashmir.”
Kalhana’s Rajatarangini is a voluminous historical account of Kashmir, that dates back to a 1,000 years ago and is a compilation of 2,000 pages. Originally written in Sanskrit, the text was later translated to English by Aurel Stain.
“The text has two only pages mentioning Queen Didda, and a very sketchy mention of her. Now the same mention has been taken forward by various other historians,” Kaul said.
“This is where the problem begins. Those books which draw from Rajatarangini say that Didda was of immoral character, she was a characterless woman and had multiple sexual partners because she wanted to remain on the throne. And it goes on to say that Didda was a woman who killed her own son, Abhimanyu. She went on to kill three infant grandsons, such was her lust for the throne. At the age of 65 or 70, she had a 20-year-old shepherd boy as her lover. She was so sexually involved with him that she got him into the palace and where he began living and was later given a position in the army. Now this is the narrative that every other book has taken forward,” he said.
“Can you equate a franchise like Manikarnika with a woman of such disastrous character? Kangana says that she is doing a story on the legend of Didda, the one who defeated Mahmud of Ghazni not once but twice. She fails to realise that this whole narrative is mine which she is using in the media. Where is the narrative which says that Didda was a great nationalist and fighter? It is there only in Didda: The Warrior Queen of Kashmir by Ashish Kaul,” he said.
Kaul, who also authored the bestseller book Refugee Camp, said that he had been planning to make a film or webseries on Queen Didda.
Elaborating about his book on Queen Didda, he said, “I had always envisioned Didda as Ashtabhujadurga, who, despite being disabled, knew all the war forms and she could handle all the weapons that existed during those days. She was a statesman, a diplomat, above all, she was a great warrior.”
Kaul, who released the Hindi version of his book on Sunday, has now started working on the Marathi version.
Where it all began:
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Read more about Didda, Kashmir’s longest serving queen.
Kaul, along with his team and his associate, was looking for someone who could pen the foreword of the book.
“That was the time last year Kangana had exploded on the screen for the Maharashtra controversy and she had suddenly started talking about Kashmir and how she felt strongly about Kashmiri Pandits and all of that. So, suddenly we thought that we should ask her. So, throughout last year consistently, my team and one of my associates and myself, we continuously tweeted the press coverage that we have received and we tweeted them to Kangana as well. We sent her mails about the book and why we felt she was fit to write the foreword,” he said.
With time slipping and no reply from Ranaut, the author’s team decided to move on. The current book comes with a foreword by the Padma Shri awardee paralympian Deepa Malik.
In January 2021, Kaul, who was in talks with some production houses to make a film on Queen Didda, was informed of Ranaut announcing her film on the Kashmiri queen along with her producer Kamal Jain.
While Kaul is currently awaiting a response from Ranaut, he confirmed that a film will soon be announced on the warrior queen. It will be made in English, Hindi and other regional languages.
“Had the pandemic not been there, the film would have already gone on floors. I am still in talks with production houses and I might direct the film as well,” he added.