Shahid Kapoor and Deepika Padukone in “Padmaavat” (2018)

Shahid Kapoor and Deepika Padukone in Padmaavat (2018)

Padmavaat is based on a Sufi poem of the same name written in 1540 by Malik Muhammad Jayasi. Director Sanjay Leela Bhansali added his own flair and interpretation giving the epic a fairy-tale feeling. Before the opening credits, a disclaimer carefully notes that the film is based on an epic poem and is considered a work of fiction.

Padmavaat is the story of a Rajput (Hindu) queen whose beauty is so great that a Muslim sultan attempts to win her kingdom in order to have her. This irritated extremist Hindus, who doubted if history and the queen were honored – even though she may or may not have actually existed.

In this film, Bhansali reunites with two of his favorite leads in recent times: Deepika Padukone and Ranveer Singh. The third lead, Shadid Kapoor, is committed and levelheaded as Maharawal Ratan Singh, the ruler of Mewar, full with Rajput pride. Deepika is radiant as the Rajput Queen whose beauty, brains and valor move the entire plot along once Alauddin Khilji becomes obsessed with her.

With a production budget of $30 million, Padmavaat is one of the most expensive Indian films ever made. The film faced numerous controversies and its release was delayed. In December 2017 the Central Board of Film Certification approved the film with a few changes, which included the addition of multiple disclaimers and a change in title. Padmavaat was rescheduled for release on January 25, 2018 in 2D, 3D and IMAX 3D formats, making it the first Indian film to be released in IMAX 3D.

Despite not being in theaters in some states of India, the film grossed $90 million at the box office, becoming a commercial success and one of the highest grossing Indian films of all time. Nevertheless, protesters have claimed that the movie distorts Rajput history and glorifies a barbaric invader as a lover and a brave warrior. Rumors allege that the movie shows a love affair between Queen Padmavati and the invader Allaudin Khiljhi. The question is: was Padmavati a real individual or a fictional character that acquired sacred status? According to the written sources, Padmavati is not mentioned in any of the historical sources of Rajasthan. A Sufi text cannot be treated as a source of political history, but then again, several 16th-century texts survived that offer varying accounts of Queen Padmavati’s life. “I think controversy was one of the reasons people wanted to see this film,” comments Bhansali.