Padmavati controversy: SC says no to plea to delete ‘objectionable scenes’ from movie
New Delhi/Panaji/Bhopal: The Supreme Court on Monday dismissed a petition seeking the deletion of certain “objectionable” scenes from Bollywood movie Padmavati, terming it “premature”, even as the controversy over the Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s period drama raged on.
A Haryana Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader, who offered a bounty of Rs10 crore to anyone beheading Bhansali and actor Deepika Padukone, got a showcause notice from his party while Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan and Punjab chief minister Amarinder Singh joined the chorus against “distortion of history”.
Meanwhile, the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) chief Prasoon Joshi said the censor board was trying to come up with a “balanced” decision but needed time and space for it.
In the Supreme Court, a bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra dismissed a petition observing that the CBFC had not yet certified the movie and the apex court cannot “injunct” a statutory body from doing its duty.
“We have been apprised that the film has not yet received the certificate from the CBFC. In view of the aforesaid, our interference in this writ petition will tantamount to pre- judging, which we are not inclined to do,” the bench, also comprising justices A.M. Khanwilkar and D.Y. Chandrachud, said.
The bench also struck off certain paragraphs from the plea filed by advocate M.L. Sharma, saying pleadings in a court “are not meant to create any kind of disharmony in the society”.
During the hearing, Sharma raised the issue of songs of the movie being released without getting certification. He alleged that a part of the Deepika Padukone-Ranveer Singh-Shahid Kapoor starrer was released despite the fact that CBFC had returned application, seeking grant of certification for the movie, to the filmmakers as it was incomplete.
Senior advocate Harish Salve, representing one of the respondents, countered the submissions and said the film’s promo was released and it had got the requisite CBFC approval. When the petitioner repeatedly alleged that part of the film has been released, the bench observed, “Censor Board has a definite role. They will see the guidelines which are there in the Act (Cinematograph Act). That is their duty. We are on other things. Should the Supreme Court intervene in stopping a movie?”
The petitioner alleged that there was “character assassination” of Rani Padmavati in the film and the CBFC would not go into these aspects. The bench then elaborated on the functioning of CBFC.
“The CBFC is a statutory body. How can the court injunct a statutory body not to exercise its duty?” it said. The court cannot direct the CBFC to decide a matter in a particular manner as it was for the board to take a call, it said.
Salve told the court that CBFC had sought from the filmmakers some documents which they have already filed and whatever was being shown had got the approvals. Meanwhile, in Chandigarh, the Haryana BJP sought an explanation from its chief media coordinator Suraj Pal Amu over remarks offering a Rs10 crore bounty to anyone beheading Bhansali and Padukone.
While the BJP distanced itself from the comments, Amu said he had made the remarks in his personal capacity and that he would resign if his party asked him to but would not tolerate any “insult” to his community.
After the chief ministers of Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh chief minister Chouhan said the film would not be allowed to be screened if historical facts were “distorted”. He said that a memorial of the queen Padmavati would be constructed at a site in Bhopal, where a memorial for the country’s brave soldiers has been proposed.
In Madhya Pradesh, Karni Sena activists created ruckus outside a cinema hall in the Anjad town for allegedly playing a trailer of the film. In Chandigarh, Punjab chief minister Amarinder Singh said that “cinematic license” does not give anyone the right to twist historical facts. The 75-year-old CM said that he himself had studied history and even been to Chittor.
“Cinematic license does not give anyone the right to twist historical facts...Those, whose feeling are hurt by distortion of facts, have the right to protest,” he said.
West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee alleged a “calculated plan” by a political party to destroy freedom of expression.
Meanwhile, CBFC chief Joshi, at the inaugural ceremony of the International Film Festival of India (IFFI) in Panaji said that the censor board is trying to come up with a “balanced decision” about “Padmavati” but it should be given adequate space and time.
“We need to understand that the CBFC must take a balanced decision. This situation was not created by the CBFC. It had nothing to do with the protests on the roads. You show the film to media houses and get reviews done but you want CBFC to deliver a fair and well-thought out decision?” Joshi said.
Joshi said he respects Bhansali a lot but the issue was about the controversy over the film. “If you expect a solution, you need to give CBFC time, space and a state of mind so that they can take a decision. That’s what I request from everyone who is involved in this.”
A Union home ministry official said that the Centre was keeping an eye on the situation even as the states were handling the situation on their own and had not sought additional forces.
As the protests and politics over the film continued, actor Shahid Kapoor, who plays Maharawal Ratan Singh in the film, said he still chooses to be optimistic. “Sometimes (with) films of this nature.... it gets a bit complicated. I will choose to be optimistic till the due course is done. This is not the time to be angry, not the time to lose your cool. There are enough people doing that. So I would choose to say that I believe in the process,” Shahid told reporters at the IFFI red carpet. “I am sure once people see the film, all this will be forgotten,” he said.
Kapoor, however, termed the violent threats against co- star Padukone as “shameful”.
Amid rumours that there was a romantic dream sequence between Padmavati and Alauddin Khilji’s characters, many groups have been protesting against the movie, alleging that it distorts history. Historians are, however, divided on whether Rani Padmavati even existed.