The controversy surrounding Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s period drama Padmaavat movie refuses to die down as Shri Rajput Karni Sena threatened journalist Unmesh Gujarathi, Resident Editor of Dainik Dabang Duniya for publishing news about the film raking in moolah at the box office. In his report, Gujarathi had spoken highly about Padmaavat and mentioned that film had received overwhelming response from viewers. He further added that audience didn’t find anything objectionable about the movie and it has portrayed Rajputs in a positive light.
Gujarathi nonetheless remained critical about Bhansali and mentioned that the director had taken an easy route to market the film by inviting controversy. As per reports, Bhansali had hired Karni Sena activists to spearhead protest activities which would enable the movie to remain in limelight. They held demonstrations in several states and vandalised properties thereby causing losses to the state exchequer. Since Bhansali was not sure about his movie’s box office success hence he adopted this strategy to market the film.
Kanchan Srivastava, Special Correspondent, DNA National Bureau expressed that open threats to Unmesh Gujarathi only expose how vulnerable journalists in this country are. She said, “This is just another attempt to silence and scare fearless and unbiased journalists, a minority in current times. Freedom of expression and freedom of press both come at a cost. The government’s silence over rising cases of attack on freedom of expression is worrisome.”
“India has never been a haven for journalists. For years, reporters and editors have faced harassment, coercion, and threats from vested interests in the government as well as private sector. Several scribes have even been killed for performing their duty or voicing an opinion. In fact, India is ranked as the 3rd most dangerous country to be a journalist, behind war-torn Iraq and Syria,” she added.
H P Tiwari, Senior Sub Editor at Dainik Dabang Duniya said that there is nothing wrong with the content of Padmaavat. He said, “Just like some people had supported Padmaavat while some others had criticised it, in the same manner there are some who raise objections against reports published in newspapers while many others support it. Those people who disapprove of Unmesh’s work might have indulged in this act of attacking him on social media.”
He added that Karni Sena has got trapped into its own trap saying “Karni Sena has been creating controversy over Padmaavat since last one year by raking up irrelevant issues but the film doesn’t have any objectionable scenes.”
Even Aaj Tak News Anchor Anjana Om Kashyap was criticised for giving too much coverage to Padmaavat and she was called Dalal on social media. Netizens asked her to focus on other issues like unemployment, rising farmer suicides faced by the nation.
Unmesh Gujarathi said that Karni Sena was used as a marketing tool and they had undertaken protests after receiving money from the filmmaker. “Journalists often are threatened for covering various reports but through this article I have called for a probe to know how the filmmaker marketed his film by generating controversy at time when film publicity costs have surged. Earlier also I was threatened for writing about another article. A defamation case was filed against me for writing an article about Lalbaughcha Raja Mandal.”
“When Karni Sena had disrupted the shooting of Padmaavat a year ago, Bhansali failed to file a complaint against them. If investigations were carried out during that period then truth would have been unveiled. I am receiving threatening calls on WhatsApp and other social media,” he added.
Karni Sena supporter Surajpal Amu had threatened NewsX anchor Sanjana Chowhan during an on-air live debate happening on channel pertaining to Padmaavat. Amu made sexist remarks against Sanjana and addressed her as ‘baby’. Even though Chowhan had asked Amu to tender apology, he refused to do so. Later, she filed complaint against the Karni Sena supporter for addressing her as baby and making derogatory comments. The National Commission of Women then sent a notice to Amu for making sexist remarks against Chowhan.
Shailesh Tiwari, journalist from Yashobhumi asked how Karni Sena knew about the plot of Padmaavat a year back when the shooting had started as very few crew members are aware about the film’s story in initial stages. He said, “Such attacks are condemnable and the entire industry should stand against it. Since last few years, personal attacks against journalists have increased in the country. I support the points made by Unmesh Gujarathi in his report.”
“A year ago Karni Sena had vandalised the set of Padmaavat in Rajasthan. Our doubt is when the whole production crew itself is sometimes unaware about the script or scenes that are being shot how is it possible that Karni Sena knew the story beforehand? The protests undertaken by the organisation is being stage-managed and a pre-planned marketing agenda. But the irony is few agitations went uncontrolled of their hands,” he added.