Filmmakers wary of their epics, biopics after Padmavati furore


Bollywood is quickly learning it cannot play with history. The fast-building protests nationwide against Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Padmavati have made filmmakers cautious about historical epics and biopics they are making. After seeing how various Rajput groups and even state chief ministers have hauled Bhansali over the coals for alleged distortion of history with Padmavati, no filmmaker wants to take chances with their content. And those with big-ticket period productions on their hands are reportedly taking a second look at what research has gone into their scripts before going to town with their films. has learned that among those Bollywood producers running scared are the makers of Kangana Ranaut’s Manikarnika: The Queen of Jhansi, the biographical being made by multi-production houses on the life of Rani Laxmibai of Jhansi that is being directed by National Award winning director Krish. The film is under production and has its fair share of trouble already. But the makers would not want to run afoul of followers of the Queen of Jhansi by distorting any facts in the history of this rebellious heroine of the Indian freedom movement. So a quick check is being done on the film’s script.

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The same will also be happening, it is learned, on Ajay Devgn’s Taanaji and Akshay Kumar’s Kesari that will go into production next year. Ajay, in revealing the first look of his film, tweeted, “He fought for his people, his soil and his King Chhatrapati Shivaji. The unsung warrior of glorious Indian history, Subedar Taanaji Malusare.”  While Kesari which is being made by Akshay Kumar and Karan Johar is based on the epic Battle of Saragarhi. This was fought in 1897 between 21 Sikh soldiers of the British Indian Army and 10,000 Afghan tribesmen in the North-West Frontier Province.

According to sources, “They (makers) now want to ensure that everything is in order in terms of the script and that they are not hurting the sentiments of the Rajputs, Marathas, Mughals, Sikhs or any community. Hence they have started to relook at the stories. They are also going to seek the help of historians. Producers invest a large amount of money on films. The last thing they want is a controversy which can put a ban on their film. No one wants a Padmavati-like drama for their films.”

In the past Bhansali’s Bajirao Mastani (2015) received flak from the Peshwa community, the Ashutosh Gowarikar-directed Jodha Akbar(2008) angered Rajputs, Ketan Mehta’s Mangal Pandey (2005) did not go down well with the BJP and Samajwadi Party, Santosh Sivan’s Asoka (2001) was criticised by renowned historians and Rajkumar Santoshi’s The Legend of Bhagat Singh (2002) too ran into controversy. Even Akshay Kumar’s 2008 action comedy Singh Is Kingg got the Sikhs upset initially. But it took Padmavati to make filmmakers realize that history should not always repeat itself.

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