Ashoutosh Gowarikar’s recent movie might not have exactly created a powerful stature among the audience but it has surely created a warfare which is what the movie’s genre offered. The director who resplendently recreates the fervent nature of our Indian Society from motion pictures like Lagaan, Swades, Jodha Akbar and many more has now shipped on a whole new ocean of pejorative and uncomplimentary behaviour from his own audience.
One of the most controversial movies this year, Panipat starring famous artists like Arjun Kapoor, Sanjay Dutt and Kriti Sanon in the lead caste has raised yet another altercation with the contention that the movie has not only stated the facts delinquent but has also mortified the status of their communal beliefs.In a democracy like India where everyone has a right to freedom of speech and expression, movie makers have certainly opened up about their perspectives but these interpretations are not always rewarded with success and so happened in the case of this movie.
One of the largest battles in the Indian History, the battle of Panipat is said to be the most crucial war zone between the invading Afghan army led by Ahmad Shah Abdali and the Maratha Empire led by Sadashiv Rao Bhau was displayed in the movie but with a divergent issue of facts. This created a nuisance among some parts of the state mainly Haryana and Rajasthan which resulted in the cancellation of its screening.
The Jat Community along with some historians contended that the Raja of Bharatpur, Surajmal played by Sanjay Dutt is falsely portrayed in the context that the character description was fabricated in order to make an attractive storyline when in fact the certainty of the actual situation completely varied. This distorted interpretation concludes the heavy protests among these communities in the states of Haryana, Rajasthan, Faridabad and Ballabgarh. Hence, the protests got so much out of line that the screening was eventually terminated in Jaipur and other places in the state like Bikaner, Nagaur, Ganganagar, Jodhpur, Hanumangarh and was released only in 55-60 theatre halls. Another crimony about a factual error was also stated regarding the dialect used in that specific time period.
The vigorous character of Surajmal, played by an appreciating actor Sanjay Dutt destroyed the grandeur of the movie by depicting incorrect facts and situation. It is keen to note that sometimes to glamorize a particular concept; filmmakers exaggerate some instances in their work of art. While some audience love it, the contrary side believes that it disrespects the sole purpose of the existence of the abstract. As it has been happening, the notion of the audience has been vastly at mutilation.
The reason behind this is that in the movie there is a sequence wherein the Maratha warrior, Sadashiv Rao Bhau proposes help from Raja Surajmal to defeat the Afghan army. But instead Raja Surajmal demands the sacred Fort of Agra as a compensation for his assistance which is faced by a refusal from the propounding party. Since, there was no alliance initiated as Raja Surajmal abandoned, it was shown that this is one of the reasons that lead to the defeat of the Maratha Army.
Contrary to this, a famous historian Kalika Ranjan Kanungo has clearly specified his work in his book “History of Jats”. In the book, he stated that as soon as Delhi faced victory, the armymen of Raja Surajmal plundered the Agra Fort. Sadashiv Rao was keen on putting an end to this atrocious operation and gave an assurance that their maintenance will be supported by the Maratha Empire. This offer was clashing with the belief system of the Jat Community. To initiate and respond to an affray with Afghan Army, Sadashiv Rao was in need of 20,00,000 rupees but he was able to gather only 6,00,000 rupees. He then asserted that the golden rooftop present in the diwan e khas can be moulded and made into Gold which will be of worth 5,00,000 rupees. This was again countering the optimism of Raja Surajaml and he specifically said that this was against his ‘takht ki izzat’ and instead he himself was ready to offer the same amount of money. But this offer was not accepted by Sadashiv Rao and further the proposing side himself backed out from offering any amount.
Also, the public is also of the opinion that in the film, the characters are using the Rajasthani and Haryanvi dialect when in fact during that time period, people used to talk in ‘Braj Bhasha’.
These facts were the main issue of the protests of the public because there was a strong derogation which questioned the liability of not only the film but everyone involved in it as well.
Similar instances in the past
It is duly noted that this is not the first time that movie makers have incapacitated the feelings of a particular community. In the past also, the harshness and strong disagreement of the audience, Shiv Sena to be specific was faced by the famous director Sanjay Leela Bhansali for his film ‘Padmavati’ which then he changed to its final name ‘Padmavat’ starring Ranveer Singh, Shahid Kapoor and Deepika Padoukone. This is amongst the many other changes like covering with CGI (Computer- generated imagery) the revealing part of Deepika’s attire in the song sequence of ‘Ghoomar’ This particular instance was challenged by the Rajasthani community, as they believed that the attire that women used to wear is never revealing and that it went against the credentials of their culture.
Also, there was another proposed sequence in which the character of Ranveer and Deepika, i.e., Allauldin Khilji and Queen Padmavati was supposed to appear in one shot but because the audience was of the scrutiny that this particular scene would lack sophistication and would harm the communal intentions. This was believed so much so that the makers of the film specifically Sanjay Leela Bhansali faced an episode of harsh aggression by a person as he threw his shoe at him.
Contrary to this, the makers of the film refused to agree to the audience’s opinion and even stated that all these contentions made by them were actually false as they are proposing their anger without even watching the film. Also, the filmmakers believed that ‘Padmavat’ in its actual sense glorified the rich heritage of the Rajputs.
Although the film was hugely in controversies, it is an irony only that it did enormously well within a large part of the audience and was critically acclaimed as well unlike the movie ‘Panipat’.
Legal principles involved and the role of censor board
With Panipat’s unreliable facts and instances, along with the audience many local ministers have also displayed their embarrassment on social media and are demanding for the film’s ban.
The Chief Minister of Rajasthan, Ashok Gehlot tweeted his discomfort for the film by writing that an artist should be in awareness of one’s religion and caste as it can cause humiliation.
The National Vice President of BJP, Vasundhra Raje also stated her opinion that the untrue depiction of Raja Surajmal is condemnable.
Also, a famous Bollywood actor, Randeep Hooda stated that to achieve the scope of entertainment, it is not necessary that in order to glorify one community it is justified to put another down.
Hence, defamation is the legal principle that is actually involved which has put an injury to the reputation of the Jat Community with all the misleading facts. Defamation is defined in section 499 of Indian Penal Code 1860 and section 500 provides that a person committing an offense under this section is liable with simple imprisonment for a term of 2 years or fine or with both.
The Censor Board has made sure that the film’s sequences which have harmed the communal sentiments should be evicted and until then its screening will be banned in several parts of the country mainly Haryana and Rajasthan.
The Entertainment industry is a depiction of democracy in itself as the voice of the audience is mostly the opinions that matters. Panipat’s adverse misrepresentation of the facts has created a deep scar in the thinking of the audience and so as to dissolve this issue the only solution for the filmmakers is to understand the real instances that occurred and ensure that when given a platform which is so upfront, its use should also be in accordance with the public’s thought.
For the first time has the Director Ashoutosh Gowarikar faced the wrath of the public so much so that as an outrun, some demeaning shots of the movie got excluded eventually.
Also, for audiences who dislike the movie, they should also have a neutral opinion towards it and should also be made aware that they should consider it as any other movie that they don’t like. Also, they should not give it much importance if they don’t want it to be under a certain limelight.
When a movie is true in its sense, it is hugely acclaimed by audiences, critics and even receive many awards. In the case of Panipat, even though Ashoutosh Gowarikar might have tried to bring out an honest significance of the Maratha heritage, he instead twisted the tale so much that it made the other community feel insulted. The real facts are also within the reach of the public and hence, it became very easy for the audience to target the film. In the end when we talk about a movie, it is important to note the artistic point of view. While some movie makers exaggerate some scenes of the movie to glamorize it, on the same side some protesters also on purpose make huge issues out of small things to be in front of limelight. The former happened in the case of Panipat and when compared the latter was the case of Padmavat.
Author: Gayatri Sharma,
GGSIPU, Jims School of Law, 2nd Year/ Student