Deepika Padukone, Bollywood’s top actress, who recently made her Hollywood debut by starring opposite Van Diesel with the action film xXx: Return of Xander Cage, is facing upheavals ahead of the release of her latest film- Padmavati in India.
Her film ‘Padmavati’ is a period drama inspired from an epic poem ‘Padmavat’ penned by Sufi poet Malik Muhmmad Jayasi in 1540. The poem had several adaptations including being featured in the Paris Opera show in 1923 by French composer Albert Roussel. The origins and the historical facts about the story in the poem have raised several questions and opinions over the years. Many scholars have said that ‘Padmavat’ might have been imaginary literary work with some resemblance to events and characters in history.
Deepika Padukone plays Rani Padmavati, a revered Rajput queen in the controversial film. Fringe groups across northern India have expressed their displeasure and intolerance about Rani Padmavati’s life being depicted on screen and have claimed it is an insult to the valor and dignity. The Rajputs were a ruling clan who were known for their martial spirit and extremely proud of their lineages and traditions.
Many groups have claimed romantic dream sequences between Rani Padmavati and powerful Muslim ruler Allauddin Khijli of the Delhi Sultanate as an insult to Rajput history. In spite of the director of the film clarifying that there is no objectionable material to hurt anybody’s sentiments, protests continue.
Some groups say that they are agitated because of the distorted way Rajput lifestyle has been portrayed in the film. They have raised objections to Deepika Padukone performing the traditional rajasthani dance – Ghoomar in the film. Their rationale being that Rajput queens never dance in public and definitely not in indecent clothing, which exposes their midriff. Incidentally, Deepika Padukone trained for the dance under the tutelage of a renowned trustee of a dance academy founded my former royals.
Image Credit: The Times of India
The film has been in trouble ever since it was first announced and the sets of the film were even vandalized by local groups. The director of the film, Sanjay Leela Bhansali, has been assaulted during the shooting of the film and witnessed violent protests along with death threats for him and Deepika Padukone. The actress herself has been threatened by several caste and community based groups, who have even threatened to cut her nose for the insult and injury she has caused to the pride of the Rajput community by playing the role. This week, a member of a majority political party publicly announced a bounty of $1.5 million to anybody who beheads her and promised to take care of the person’s family needs.
The rest of the actors and people associated with the film have not publicly spoken much about the violence and threats, Deepika Padukone, along with the director, has expressed her utter disappointment and was quoted saying “Well, at this point, as a woman, an artiste and a citizen of this country I feel angry, I feel let down and I also find it amusing.”
Asked if she felt intimidated with the violent protests and threats, she indicated in a newspaper interview that she never feels scared and that fear is not an emotion that she identifies with. Ruby Rose, Deepika’s co-star in her Hollywood debut took to twitter to stand by Deepika and called her one of the strongest women. “I am in shock at reading what my dear friend is going through but in absolute awe of her strength and courage. Deepika you are one of the strongest women I know,” Rose tweeted.
The casualness with which artists like Deepika are being threatened of physical harm and death for exercising creative freedom is criminal and the people behind it need to be taken to task. Deepika rightly refuses to bog down to threats to her life, her creative freedom as an artist and freedom of choices as a woman. This is not the first time she has spoken her mind fearlessly. Deepika is known to publicly speak about her battle with depression and encouraged people to come out and openly discuss mental health in India.