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Nothing can stop Padmaavat release: Shyam Benegal on SC lifting ban

The filmmaker called the Supreme Court's decision a victory for freedom of expression in the country.


Veteran filmmaker Shyam Benegal on Thursday hailed the Supreme Court's decision to strike down the ban against Sanjay Leela Bhansali's Padmaavat in some states, saying it is clearly a victory for freedom of expression in the country.

Benegal, who had chaired the committee set up in 2015 by the Union information and broadcasting (I&B) ministry to propose ways to revamp the film certification process in the country, said that once the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) and the Supreme Court have given the movie a go-ahead, nothing can stop its release.

The governments of Rajasthan, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Haryana had banned the film's release in their territories.

As for the organizations that are threatening to protest ahead of the film's release on 25 January over the alleged distortion of historical facts, the state governments must intervene and ensure that law and order is maintained, the celebrated filmmaker said.

"The controversy is over. The film will be shown all over the country. The CBFC has anyway cleared the film and the Supreme Court has endorsed it. There is nothing to stop it except some people like [those from the] Karni Sena and whoever they are... If they prevent it, then there will be a law and order situation, and the state government can take action against them," Benegal told the IANS news agency on telephone.

"Quite clearly, it's a win for freedom of expression," he added.

The 83-year-old director, known for his socially relevant movies like Ankur (1974), Nishant (1975), Manthan (1976) and Bhumika (1977), wondered why questions are being raised against the movie, which the makers have clearly stated is based on 16th century poet Malik Muhammad Jayasi's poem Padmavat.

"After all, the simple thing is that Padmavat is a classic. It was written in 1526 and not written yesterday or today. It is a classic work. We have accepted the literary classic which has been there since 1526 when Malik wrote it, and now the fact is that so many years later, some little-known organization is saying that it is offending them and their sentiments. Does it make sense?

"It doesn't make sense to anybody except for that little group of people who are creating all the noise," he said, applauding the CBFC and the Supreme Court's "correct step" in connection with the film starring Deepika Padukone, Ranveer Singh and Shahid Kapoor.

The CBFC had on 30 December 2018 decided to grant a 'U/A' certificate to the movie, subject to five modifications, including a change in its title from Padmavati to Padmavat. The makers — Bhansali Productions and Viacom18 Motion Pictures — finally went with Padmaavat, and agreed to the other four points, maintaining that the movie glorifies Rajput pride, valour and honour.

However, the Rajput Karni Sena has been adamant in its demand that the movie must not be screened.

Benegal said: "There is nothing to stop state governments from acting against these groups who are causing this problem, unless they are hand in glove with the group... what is going to prevent them?"

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