The so-called liberals have been an upset lot ever since Bollywood director Sanjay Leela Bhansali was roughed up at the sets of his latest magnum opus – Padmavati- by a group of men belonging to Shri Rajput Karni Sena in Jaipur last week, for portraying how Khilji romances Rani Padmavati!
This group has been protesting against Bhansali’s alleged distortion of history and wrongful portrayal of character of the queen of Chittor during the 13th century – Padmini and Delhi sultanate’s ruler Alauddin Khilji’s obsession with her.
Since then Bollywood and advocates of free speech have unleashed a vicious online campaign on how this is an infringement on creative expression.
If Bhansali is really serious about the portrayal of Khilji’s romantic life, he seems to have missed out on the most interesting love story: Malik Kafur.
Khilji also had a weakness for beardless boys. He was fascinated by Kafur’s effeminate beauty and ended up buying the slave for a thousand Dinars during his conquest of Gujarat. Kafur took full advantage of Khilji’s enamour for him and rose through the ranks to become the Malik Naib (deputy ruler).
This love affair between Khilji and Kafur is well documented in many books including the Tarikh-e-Firozshahi. It is believed that Khilji had almost 50,000 beardless boys in his harem at the height of his empire.
There was no love between Rani Padmini and Khilji. On the contrary, it was Padmini who led the 1,600 odd Rajput women to jump into the pyre and commit Jauhar rather than being taken prisoner. Padmini is revered for her valour and has acquired legendary status over the centuries with many temples and shrines dedicated to her memory.
There is no doubt that those who indulged in violence against Bhansali should be taken to task. There is no place for lumpen elements in our society. But filmmakers too need to sensitise themselves when it comes to dealing with historical issues.
Why should any filmmaker want to film a dream sequence where Padmini and Khilji are romancing? How about sticking to history and shooting a sensual, romantic song between Khilji and Kafur?