For some reason, America will never make a film showing Hitler as a great warrior, with American women swooning over him. Even if there indeed were few American women with Nazi bent of mind during Hitler’s time, American cinema is never going to make a romance out of it. It’s just not going to happen at all. Pakistan will never make a film on Hindu warriors like Prithviraj Chauhan, Rana Pratap and Shivaji, is it? Not a cat-in-hell chance, despite the fact that Pakistan was part of India till 1947 and these gentlemen date way back in history, it is something which is just never going to happen. You can’t show anything on the screen, there are always some unwritten laws to abide by and some undeclared rules to follow. There are implications and connotations. There are some ethics of a mass medium, something which deals directly with people and their set of myths.
However, in the present context four things are constantly being said :
1) There was no such historical figure as Padmavati, it is all but myth and folklore
2) Nobody knows what SLB is going to show in his film and the alleged love scene between Padmavati and Alauddin Khilji is only a rumor
3) Even if the said scene is a reality, director was said to be showing it in a dream sequence and this is his artistic freedom
4) You can’t just storm into a film set and vandalize everything taking the course of law in your hands.
Well, to begin with, the fourth argument sounds fair enough. Nobody indeed should storm into a film set and vandalize everything and thrash the director, more the reason why because you can do it in a better way by logically encountering him in and tear him apart on his own grounds, in a very non violent way.
Going back to first point, that Padmavati was all but a myth, well, while this is yet to be decided whether she was a historical character or a myth, the prejudice remains that still you can not take liberty even with a myth once it finds its roots in the hearts and minds of the people. This is the fundamental ethic of artistic freedom. More the reason why because most of the religions are based on a set of myths and if we start taking excessive liberty with such myths, the religious structures would fall apart. While this is desirable or not, is the different thing, but I am not sure if many SLB supporters will be ready for this, for one reason or other. This is also to be noted that Charlie Hebdo also had tried to play with a myth and result was a bloodshed, costing many lives. That was some intolerance for you!
Nobody except SLB himself knows for sure what he is going to show in his film and the alleged love scene between Padmavati and Alauddin Khilji is only a rumor, and yet he hasn’t come clean on the rumors either. He has not on record stated that his film does not try to distort the mythical aura of the Padmavati by showing her sexually inclined towards Islamic attacker, while, as the legend goes, she had actually decided the path of self-immolation only to save herself from the clutches of lustful Khilji. This has set a myth of self sacrifice, nationalistic spirit and a divine, pure beauty in the minds of people. It is no joke to play with this myth in any way and if SLB is not showing any such scene in his film, then he should come clean on it and put a full stop on the rumors.
The bottomline remains, that while the attack on SLB and his film set is condemnable, well, he also had it coming if he chose to make a film on this subject and decided to turn the history, or the legend, on its head. Since, in films like Jai Chittod (1961) and Maharani Padmini (1964) this subject was touched upon even before, but the storyline had remained true to the legend and that’s how it should be. Artistic freedom is indeed valuable, but not at the expense of sense of pride and self esteem imbued in some of the traditional folklores of ours, historically accurate or not.