The amazingly prolific and fearless Shyam Benegal definitely sees a deep-rooted political conspiracy in what is happening to Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Padmaavat .
Because Shyam Babu , as he is widely known by his admirers and friends, had filmed the story of Allauddin Khilji’s violent obsession for Rani Padmavati many years back, and not a stir of protest happened.
Explains Shyam Babu, “You must understand this is not an issue of tolerance/intolerance . It is something else entirely. I see a deeprooted political conspiracy in what is happening toSanjay Bhansali’s film, and the protests have nothing to do with the content of the film. I’ve filmed the same saga way back in 1988 for my series Bharat Ek Khoj on Doordarshan. Om Puri had played Allauddin Khilji .”
Interestingly Shyam Benegal’s vision of what transpired between Rani Padmini andAllauddin Khilji was also based on the poem Padmaavat by Malik Mohammed Jayasi.
Explains Shyam Babu, “Jayasi’s beautiful 15th century poem is based on the idea of unattainable love. He talks of love as something that can be desired, never fulfilled. The poem describes the mad infatuation of Allaluddin Khilji for Rani Padmavati. I was deeply moved by it. We shot the story exactly the way Jayasi described it in his poem. At the end Rani Padmavati commits Jauhar along with hundreds of followers. I haven’t seen Bhansali’s film. But I presume this is exactly what transpires in it.”
Interestingly Sanjay Bhansali was part of the Padmavati episode of Benegal’s Bharat EkKhoj.
Reveals Benegal, “Sanjay Bhansali was an assistant director in my Padmavati episode ofBharat Ek Khoj. His sister Bela Sehgal and his brother-in-law Deepal Sehgal were also involved with the episode as editors.We shot the episode exactly the way it was described in Jayasi poem down to the mass jauhar at the end..Now when Sanjay makes a film based on the same poem we’ve women with swords coming in front of the media cameras threatening to commit jauhar to stop the film.”
On a more serious note, Shyam Babu wonders why the government is silent over these unlawful protests. “We’ve these strange men with their aggressive demeanour going on national television to issue open threats. The law enforcers know what exactly who they are. Why are they not being arrested even when they openly issue threats against the director and his actor? I certainly see a political conspiracy in this. This is nothing but an attempt to appease the Rajput vote bank. Why are no arrests being made when now even school children are being threatened?”
Would Shyam Babu hesitate in directing Padmavati today as he had done in 1988?
“Not at all,” comes the prompt answer. “One doesn’t think of these things while making a film. But again I repeat, what is happening to Sanjay Bhansali’s film is no ordinary protest. It is something else, beyond my understanding.”