'The way they have showed Bajirao dancing in the song Malhari Malhari -- this is not the way to depict history.'
Bajirao Mastani, director Sanjay Leela Bhansali's period magnum opus depicting the love story between Peshwa Bajirao I and Mastani, has run into trouble in Pune city.
Three shows of the film have been cancelled at the City Pride theatre in Kothrud, Pune, following protests by the Bharatiya Janata Party's youth wing over its 'incorrect depiction' of history.
Medha Vishram Kulkarni, image, left, the BJP legislator from Kothrud who supports the protest, spoke to Syed Firdaus Ashraf/Rediff.com about the party's objections to the film.
Why are you protesting against the film?
We are not against the screening, but the way the film has been picturised. We are against that because Mastanibaisaheb and Kashibaisaheb are both shown dancing together and their dance also seems to be a type of Lavni. So we are against the Pinga, Pinga song.
Did you personally go to the theatres to stop the screening?
I am in Nagpur for the state assembly session, but BJP activists went there to stop the screening of the film and they succeeded.
Is the protest against Bajirao Mastani all over Pune or restricted only to the Kothrud area?
It is all over Pune. Today all shows have been stopped.
Don't you think it is too late to protest since the film has already released today and the livelihood of many people depends on it?
Actually we were in the process for a long time. We contacted Pahlaj Nihalani (the Censor Board chief). We spoke to (Information and Broadcasting Minister) Arun Jaitley, we spoke to Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, the culture minister of Maharashtra. What else we can do?
So BJP supporters are at all Pune theatres to stop the screening?
Not only BJP supporters, but also activists from the Bajirao Peshwa Pratishthan, the descendents of Bajirao Peshwa, and of Umabaisaheb Dabhade.
Did you contact director Sanjay Leela Bhansali before your protest?
We tried to contact him, but he was not ready to contact or meet me or even the Peshwa family members.
But the court gave the film the go ahead, so isn't your protest unConstitutional?
I heard about that.
Actually, we would have welcomed the movie because Chiman Bajirao Peshwa's history now comes in front of the next generation.
But the way they have picturised it, the way they have showed him (Bajirao) dancing in the song Malhari Malhari -- this is not the way to depict history.
We had two demands. Delete those two songs and the rest of the film must be screened before historians only after which it should be released.
Will you take your protest across Maharashtra?
I don't know because as I told you, I am in Nagpur.
‘You must check with historians’
Anil Shirole, the BJP's Member of Parliament from Pune, speaks on the Bajirao Mastani controversy.
Why is your party protesting against Bajirao Mastani?
This is not my party's stand. Some people are saying that things have not been shown correctly in the film. People who have such feelings, they are protesting against this.
My statement is that whatever history says, we must know by speaking to historians.
If not your party, which organisation is protesting against the film?
Whatever I have heard is only from you. I also got a call stating that the BJP Yuva Morcha is protesting against the film. Those who feel that their feelings have been hurt, they are protesting.
I am saying this as the BJP's city president of Pune, and as a member of Parliament, that whenever such incidents happen, you must check with historians.
I don't know what has happened in history nor do you. I feel those who are protesting must be knowing about history. They are saying that the film is wrongly portraying (Bajirao and Mastani).
But the Censor Board has passed the film, they didn't find anything objectionable about the film.
Those who are protesting, they are doing it because of their sentiments. I am telling you my view.
Will you then condemn the protest by BJP Yuva Morcha?
That is what I am saying, the people who are feeling the film is wrong, and there can be BJP workers also among them, they have protested.
But as an MP sworn to uphold the Constitution, don't you think since the film has been legally cleared, its screening must be allowed?
Please try to understand what I am saying. It has been many years now since the incident (the Bajirao-Mastani episode) happened. I don't know, you don't know (the truth). To react without knowing is not right.
Our role is that there should be peace in society, that is my responsibility. So my duty is to understand what is the problem first.
But the BJP Yuva Morcha is taking the law into their hands by stopping the film's screening.
It is not like that. What is right and what is wrong, we must check with historians and only then will we know what is right and what is wrong.
IMAGE: BJP members protest against the screening of Sanjay Leela Bhansali's Bajirao Mastani in Pune. Photograph: PTI Photo