A Lavish Bollywood Musical Is Fueling A Culture War In India

Qureshi, Bilal
Date Written:  2018-01-25
Publisher:  NPR
Year Published:  2018
Resource Type:  Article
Cx Number:  CX22300

Review of the controversial 2018 Bollywood film "Padmaavat". Qureshi summarises the politically charged campaign of misinformation and resulting sectarian violence that has dogged its release.



Padmaavat, India's first 3-D IMAX spectacle, is a lavish, operatic Bollywood musical set in the 14th-century palaces and deserts of Rajasthan. It has elephant processions, kaleidoscopic tableaus of Indian palaces and gorgeous actors in bejeweled costumes. It was directed by one of India's most celebrated filmmakers, Sanjay Leela Bhansali, and stars one of the country's most popular actresses, Deepika Padukone.

The film opens in India on Thursday, but from the moment it went into production, it's been plagued by violent protests over its depiction of Padukone's character, Queen Padmavati, a legendary Hindu royal."It's a historic film," Padukone told NPR in 2017. "And the character that I play is someone who, historically, there's a certain section of India that worships her."

Queen Padmavati made her first documented appearance in a 16th-century Sufi Muslim poem about battles over her beauty. She has since risen to mythical status for how she protected her people's honor by burning herself alive, along with the women of her kingdom, in the face of an invasion by the Muslim sultan of Delhi. The practice, known as jauhar, is both banned and widely criticized today, but Padmavati's valor earned her a deified status; to many, she's a symbol of sacrifice and Hindu honor.

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