Karni Sena open to watching 'Padmaavat' ahead of Jan 25 release
Protests against Sanjay Leela Bhansali's 'Padmaavat' rocked several states, including Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh, on Monday even as the Karni Sena indicated willingness to watch the film ahead of its scheduled release on January 25.
In Rajasthan, protesters in Rajsamand and Barmer blocked highways while a youth in Bhilwara climbed a mobile phone network tower to express opposition.
Towns like Indore, Ujjain and Jhabua in Madhya Pradesh witnessed road blockades while in Uttar Pradesh's Gorakhpur, the home turf of Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, people waving saffron flags burnt an effigy of Bollywood director Bhansali right in front of a cinema hall.
As the lavishly mounted period drama continued to face stiff opposition, states like Haryana and Maharashtra promised security to theatres that would screen it.
On the other hand, the Rajasthan government, invited the Mewar royal family and the Karni Sena, to become party to its petition in the Supreme Court against an earlier ruling that lifted the ban on the movie in the state.
Even as the row simmered on, the Shree Rajput Karni Sena said it was ready to watch the period drama as offered by Bhansali productions in a bid to end the deadlock.
Karni Sena has been the most vociferous of the fringe groups opposing the movie alleging historical facts were distorted.
"We are ready to watch the film. We never said that we will not watch the film. The filmmaker assured us one year ago that he will go for a special screening and now he has written for the screening and we are ready for it," Sena leader Lokendra Singh Kalvi told PTI over the phone.
Bhansali productions had on January 20 written to the Shree Rajput Karni Sena and Rajput Sabha, Jaipur, inviting them to watch the film assuring that it showcased the honour and valour of Rajputs.
Despite expressing willingness to watch the movie, the Karni Sena continued its stiff opposition, as Kalvi met Chief Minister Adityanath in Lucknow and pressed for a ban on 'Padmaavat'.
"People will impose 'janta curfew' in cinema halls in Uttar Pradesh if the movie is screened," Kalvi said after his 20-minute meeting with Adityanath. He listed objections on nearly 40 different counts with regard to the movie.
Rajasthan Home Minister Gulab Chand Kataria, meanwhile, said that the state government's petition in the Supreme Court would be strengthened if Karni Sena and the Mewar royal family became party to it.
"We are equally affected as are the people. We have exercised all the rights we have within the framework of law and constitution so that peoples' sentiment and law and order issues can be addressed," Kataria said.
Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh have moved the Supreme Court seeking recall of its January 18 order by which 'Padmaavat' was allowed to be released across India on January 25.
The Haryana government took a different stance saying it will implement the Supreme Court order that allows the screening of the movie.
"It's good if some theatre owners do not want to screen the film, but those who want to, they will be provided full security," Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar said.
The Mumbai police also promised security to the theatres that would show the controversial film.
Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and Haryana had banned "Padmaavat" amid fierce protests by fringe groups, who alleged the film distorted history.
The Supreme Court had set aside the notifications issued by Rajasthan and Gujarat against the release of the film.
Producers of the film, Viacom18, had moved the Supreme Court challenging the ban on its screening by the four states.
The film, starring Deepika Padukone as Rani Padmavati and Ranveer Singh as Allaudin Khilji, will hit the screens on January 25, after months of stiff opposition from right-wing groups.