On a day when the highest court of the land made it very clear that filmmakers and writers must have complete right to their freedom of expression and that is sacrosanct, the furore over a fictional film on a fictional character crossed all boundaries with some Rajput groups threatening to chop off actress Deepika Padukone’s nose for her role as Padmavati and defending the film stoutly. All kinds of groups including political parties have jumped into the fray with threats against the public release of the film on December 1.
Filmmakers and writers should be allowed to enjoy freedom of speech and expression and curbs can’t be put on this, the Supreme Court said on Thursday, rejecting a plea against the release of a documentary on Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal.
The apex court said that freedom of speech and expression was “sacrosanct”.
The documentary, “An Insignificant Man”, based on activist-turned-politician Kejriwal’s life, will be screened in cinemas across India on Friday as scheduled.
The Supreme Court refused to entertain the plea to delete the portion showing petitioner Nachiketa Walhekar throwing ink on Kejriwal.
Walhekar said the 2013 ink throwing incident was shown in a promotional trailer.
Rejecting the request that the documentary not be released, Chief Justice Dipak Misra, Justice A.M. Khanwilkar and Justice D.Y. Chandrachud said: “Courts should be extremely slow in passing any kind of restraint order in such a situation as there can’t be curbs on the freedom of speech and expression.”
Speaking for the bench, Chief Justice Misra said: “The courts … should allow the respect that a creative man enjoys in writing a drama, play, playlet, book on philosophy, or any kind of thought that is expressed on the celluloid or theatre.
“It is worthy to mention that the freedom of speech and expression is sacrosanct and the said right should not be ordinarily interfered with,” the court said, emphasising on the creative instincts of an artiste or author.
The court said all creative people have the right to enjoy their works in production of films and dramas.
“Be it noted, a film or a drama or a novel or a book is a creation of art. An artiste has his own freedom to express himself in a manner which is not prohibited by law and such prohibitions are not read by implication to crucify the rights of expressive mind,” the court said.
Addressing apprehensions expressed by petitioner’s lawyer Pushkar Sharma, the court said: “Needless to emphasise that his apprehensions that this documentary will be used as evidence during his trial is not to be commented upon as that would be for the trial court to adjudge under the Evidence Act.
“… we are sure the trial court should exercise its jurisdiction in accordance with law.”
Supreme Court order notwithstanding, opposition to Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s fictional film “Padmavati” continued to grow with a Karni Sena leader on Thursday threatening actress Deepika Padukone with physical harm over her “provocative statements”, while a Brahmin group held a blood signature campaign demanding a ban on the film. The Khawaja Moinuddin Chishti Dargah also issued a statement requesting a ban.
On Wednesday, dubbing Deepika Padukone’s statement regarding “Padmavati” provocative, the Shri Rajput Karni Sena had called for a ‘Bharat Bandh’ (shutdown) on December 1 if Bhansali’s movie was released on that date.
Lokendra Singh Kalvi, founder-patron of the Shri Rajput Karni Sena, on Wednesday, while addressing a press conference here had dubbed Padukone’s statement that “nothing can stop the movie’s release”, as “provocative”.
Mahipal Singh Makrana, state president of Shri Rajput Karni Sena, said, “No Kshatriya would ever raise a hand on a woman. We advise and request Deepika not to give provocative statements otherwise it will become a big law and order situation.”
“Hum to sirf nashiyat de rahe hain ki is tarah ke statements na dein ki kahin Lakshman aur Shurpanakha wala issue na ban jaye (We are only giving advise against making such statements or it could lead to a Lakshman and Shurpanaka situation),” Makrana said, in an obvious threat.
In Ramayana, Lakshman had chopped off Ravan’s sister Shurpanakha’s nose.
“We are requesting not to show anything which hurts our sentiments…But no one is listening, while on the other hand provocative statements are being issued,” he said, adding that the organisation now wants a complete ban on the film.
Meanwhile, Sarv Brahmin Mahasabha, an organisation of the Brahmin community, organised a blood signature campaign on Thursday and will send it to the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) requesting it to ban the film.
The Deewan of Khawaja Moinuddin Chishti (Khwaja Gareeb Nawaz) Dargha, Deewan Zainul Abedin Ali Khan, has said that opposition to the film is right as it hurts religious sentiments. “The Muslims should support it,” he said and requested Prime Minister Narendra Modi to ban the film.
Activists of the Karni Sena had on Tuesday vandalised a theatre in Kota, Rajasthan, over reports that it was showing a trailer of “Padmavati”.
In January, activists of the Karni Sena had protested, manhandled and misbehaved with the crew of “Padmavati” in Jaipur, claiming that Bhansali was “distorting” historical facts in the movie.
They had also damaged some cameras and other equipment. Bhansali had to stop shooting.
“They are trying to defame queen Padmavati by distorting historical facts. It is not acceptable,” an activist of the Karni Sena said.
In March, some miscreants broke the mirrors at the Padmini Mahal in Chittorgarh Fort where Alauddin Khilji is alleged to have seen Rani Padmavati or Padmini. The Karni Sena claims the mirror story was invented years later.
The Bharatiya Janata Party’s Rajasthan unit chief Ashok Parnami told the media that the Vasundhara Raje government will not tolerate any distortion of historical facts.
“Our history is glorious. We will not tolerate any distortion in historical facts,” he said.
Rajasthan State Commission for Women chief Suman Sharma, in a letter urged CBFC chief Prasoon Joshi to watch the movie and ensure there was no assault on the dignity of women through the film.
Sharma told reporters that she appealed to the board that women from the Rajput community too should be included in the pre-screening of the movie.
The Uttar Pradesh government has also said in a letter to the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting to ensure that the prospects of public outrage and unrest over “Padmavati” are considered owing to twisting of historical facts before certification of the film by the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC).
Also, Union Minister Uma Bharti lashed out at Bhansali, and tweeted: “If we are talking about the respect of Padmavati, then it is our moral obligation that we respect every woman. Disrespect of the actress or actor of ‘Padmavati’ is uncalled for and immoral.”
She added: “The director and his associate as the scriptwriter of ‘Padmavati’ are responsible for its story. They should have taken care of the sentiments and the historical facts.”
Various organisations, political parties and individuals have stood up for the Rajput community and have opposed the release of “Padmavati” over apprehensions that it distorts history in telling the tale of Rajput queen Padmavati.
The Congress party also said on Wednesday that if there are scenes that hurt the sentiments of a particular community then the same need to be reviewed.
“I have not watched the movie as yet, but definitely the Central Board of Film Certification formulated and formed by the Bharatiya Janata Party-led government has seen it and passed it without cuts.
“But any movie that hurts the sentiments of any community… a film is not made to hurt any community,” said Congress Spokesperson R.P.N. Singh.
Earlier, on November 11, Thakur Anup Singh, National Youth President of the so-called Akhil Bharatiya Kshatriya Mahasabha, wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi asking him to take action against those who were protesting against the film “Padmavati”.
On the other hand, Deepika in an interview has said nothing can stop the release of the film.
“It’s appalling, it’s absolutely appalling. What have we gotten ourselves into? And where have we reached as a nation? We have regressed,” Deepika said.
“The only people we are answerable to is the censor board, and I know and I believe that nothing can stop the release of this film,” said the actress, adding that the film industry’s support symbolises how “this is not about ‘Padmavati’… We’re fighting a much bigger battle,” she added.
On his behalf, Bhansali has clarified through various platforms that the film doesn’t show the Rajput community in a bad light and has been made keeping all religious sentiments in mind.
“Padmavati”, which also features Shahid Kapoor and Ranveer Singh, is yet to be certified by CBFC. However, the Rajput community has demanded a special screening of the film for them before it hits the theatres.
While the film is drawing a lot of flak from the political parties, Bhansali is getting unstinted support from the film community.
“There is no fear and one shouldn’t be scared either because I think this is a democratic country and everybody should be allowed to make films they want to make,” Aditi Rao Hydari, who is part of “Padmavati”, said here on Wednesday.
Actress Richa Chadha, who worked with Bhansali in “Goliyon Ki Raasleela Ram-Leela”, said: “With all due respect and love, I am also a Hindu, and I don’t think religion is so weak that a movie can break it. And I think it is a speciality of India that we are a democracy, so watch the film before objecting.”
Celebrities like Salman Khan, Karan Johar and Javed Akhtar also expressed their support to the film.
Standing firmly with Bollywood, the Maharashtra government assured security to theatres which screen Padmavati.
Minister of State for Home (Urban) Ranjit Patil said that in view of the volatile situation, security would be provided to all theatres screening the film.
“All measures will be taken. We are monitoring the situation on a daily basis to ensure that no untoward incident happens,” Patil told the media.
Besides, he said some groups opposing the film had met government representatives to explain their stand and Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis was seized of the matter.
The development came a couple of days after Fadnavis provided a precautionary security cover to Bhansali, who is facing death threats from various quarters.
The state government’s stand is in contrast to the stand taken by Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) legislator from Mumbai Ram Kadam, also President of the Film Studios Setting and Allied Mazdoor Sangh.
Kadam said that in view of the public sentiments, they had decided to oppose the film “tooth and nail” and threatened that his union would never work with Bhansali in future.
However, the Maharashtra Navnirman Chitrapat Sena has said it would take a stand on the film only after watching it and if anything was found objectionable it would discuss the issue with Bhansali.
“We have decided not to oppose it without watching it. We are aware that some groups and individuals are against it, but we shall watch the film first before taking any stand,” MNCS President Amey Khopkar said in a statement. (IANS)