Panipat hit by protests

The protest against the film Panipat for portraying erstwhile king Surajmal in bad light escalated this week when protesters smashed glass-panelled windows of the Inox cinema hall in Jaipur.

The show at Raj Mandir, the renowned cinema hall in the city, was also cancelled.

Bharatpur, another city in Rajasthan, observed a shutdown, while Bikaner too witnessed protests with some people forcibly shutting the doors of a cinema hall.

In Jaipur, people gathered in large numbers at the Surajmal Square, which has became a protest site, during the week.

Rajasthan Tourism Minister Vishwendra Singh, a descendant of Surajmal, joined the protest and demanded an immediate ban on the film.

He accused the film's producer and director of tampering with history to raise viewership.

"Earlier, they produced Jodha-Akbar, then Padmavati, whose name had to be changed to Padmavat after violence in the state, and now they have come up with Panipat without studying its context," he said.

The film is based on the Third Battle of Panipat fought between the Maratha empire and the Afghan king Ahmad Shah Abdali in 1761.

In the film, Maratha warrior Sadashiv Rao Bhau (played by Arjun Kapoor) asks Maharaja Surajmal for help to defeat the Afghans, but the king demands the Agra Fort in return.

This denial of help to the Maratha army is depicted as one of the factors that led to the Marathas' eventual defeat.

Members of the Jat community have protested against the film and several theatres in Rajasthan have decided not to screen the film, which was released last Friday.

"The film projects that we demanded the Agra Fort (for helping the Marathas). That's not the reality. Maharaj Surajmal expanded his kingdom through his bravery," Mr Singh said.

"We can't term the censor board wrong. This is the fault of the producer and director. They never did in-depth research. The filmmakers should get in touch with the family of a person being depicted in a film and do comprehensive research."

Jat leader Nem Singh Faujdaar burnt an effigy of the film's director Ashutosh Gowariker at the Surajmal Square on Saturday along with hundreds of people who raised slogans against Gowariker.

"Maharaj Surajmal has been portrayed as a greedy ruler which we cannot tolerate," he said.

Historian Ramveer Sharma said Agra was already under Surajmal and what is shown in the movie is wrong.

"Maharaj Surajmal went to the Maratha camp and saved many women and children who were taken to Gwalior and Deeg forts," he said.

Minister Singh condemned the protests, though. He said: "I criticise this violence. It will not help anyone. I know Ashutosh Gowariker wants this violence to happen, which could increase viewership of the film."

A complaint has been filed against the film's producer, director and script writer at the Mansarovar police station by local resident Ram Avatar Palsaniyan.

Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot took to Twitter to demand intervention by the Censor Board.

"This situation where so many reactions are coming out regarding Panipat should not have come up. The Censor Board should intervene in the matter and take cognisance of the same. Distributors should build a dialogue with the Jat community without any delay," he said.

Panipat, which stars Arjun Kapoor, Sanjay Dutt, Kriti Sanon, Mohnish Bahl, Padmini Kolhapure and Zeenat Aman, opened to mixed reviews last Friday. Arjun plays Bhau, who leads the Marathas against Abdali, characterised by Sanjay. Kriti is cast as Sadashiv's wife Parvati Bai.

In his review for NDTV, Saibal Chatterjee wrote that Sanjay's entry lights up the film but only for a "tad" bit: "To be fair, Kapoor responds manfully to the challenge. However, the onerous effort that he needs to put in to make the character work slows down the film and undermines its impact. It is only when Sanjay Dutt surfaces late in the first half as the larger-than-life Abdali that Panipat perks up a tad only to quickly veer back into terrible tedium."

In his box-office report, trade analyst Taran Adarsh said Panipat is "struggling". While the film made Rs20.27 crore in the first four days, Pati Patni Aur Woh, which released at the same time, touched Rs41 crore.

Indo-Asian News Service


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