What is the film all about?
Manikarnika is a period drama based on the life of Jhansi’s queen Rani Laxmibai. The film will appertain to the cinematic depiction of the struggles of the queen during her lifetime and her combat against the British East India Company, during the 1857 Indian Rebellion. Manikarnika being one of the most awaited films of 2019 is set to release on January 25. The film is being produced by Zee Studios in association with Kamal Jain and Nishant Pitti, co-directed by Kangana Ranaut and Krish Jagarlamudi. While Ranaut herself acts in the role of Manikarnika, the other cast members include Ankita Lokhande, Atul Kulkarni, Jishu Sengupta, Danny Denzongpa and Edward Sonnenblick among many others. The script and dialogues have been written by Vijayendra Prasad and Prasoon Jhoshi respectively.
What is the controversy?
On January 17, it was reported that the Maharashtra wing of the Karni Sena was protesting against the film with regard to two aspects that the film allegedly deals with: Queen Laxmibai’s relationship with a British officer and a dance number featuring the character of the queen, which they believe doesn’t adhere to tradition. Denying these reports, the national spokesperson for the right wing political organisation, told the IANS that the organisation’s name was being misused for certain vested interests. He further added “We are not opposing Manikarnika: The Queen of Jhansi till we don’t have anything substantial from the family, region or the community.” However, it has been reported that the Karni Sena had earlier sent a letter addressed to the producers, director and writers of the film saying that if the image of Rani Laxmibai is found to be maligned in the film, the makers will have to face consequences.
Who said what
In an interview to an online portal, actress Kangana Ranaut stated, “Four historians have certified Manikarnika. We have got the censor certificate as well. This has been conveyed to Karni Sena but they are continuing to harass me.” Contrary to their official statement, the president of Maharashtra’s Karni Sena said, “”If she continues to threaten the members of our outfit, we will not let her walk freely in Maharashtra and will burn her film sets.”
Kangana Ranaut, however, is determined to fight the protesters upfront as she demonstrates by saying, “If they don’t stop then they should know I am also a Rajput and I will destroy each one of them”.
How long before the Karni Sena stops interfering with Bollywood’s portrayal of historical incidents?
The year 2018 witnessed the Karni Sena strong opposition to the release of Padmaavat starring Deepika Padukone, Ranvir Singh and Shahid Kapoor. The escalation of the incident to violent action by the Karni Sena paved the way for political dominance over freedom of creative expression. Continuous bans across states, the distributors disagreeing to involve themselves in the process until the settlement of the controversy, few people of the Bollywood film fraternity stepping forward to speak up, cuts by the CBFC before the film’s release, the producers agreeing to organise special screening for the Karni Sena before release of the film, the change of the title of the film and the prevalence of the protests long after the film’s release contributed in passively validating to the political organisation’s involvement in the freedom of creative expression and fictional depiction of stories related to history. However, fortunately enough it was not completely a lost battle. And while the film did release eventually, it had its fair share of cuts and modifications that, obviously enough, Sanjay Leela Bhansali didn’t care for.
Karni Sena going too far?
However, the Kari Sena’s involvement yet again clearly suggests that they took their bullying of the makers of “Padmavat” as a stepping stone in their quest for forcing their version of events on the people of the film fraternity and the people of the country in general. It is about time that strong action is taken and voices raised by the people in Bollywood, as well as the public, to stop political involvement in the freedom of creative expression once and for all. The battle is no longer restricted to particular films; it is more about the shackling of creative expression by demonstrating political extremism. The censor board already exists to decide whether the release of a film can in any way hurt religious sentiments and misrepresent the history of our nation or not. Further, a work of creative expression or fiction must be put out in the public for the audience to decide its fate and judge its merit. The involvement of a particular political organisation with vested interests not only enforces a particular thought process and ideals whilst fettering freedom of artistic expression but also questions the existence and judging capability of the censor board.
Image: Indian Express
Sources: News18, Hindustan Times , E Times, IMDB, Firstpost