Why did Alauddin attack Chittor

Soiled Queen? - A historical drama keeps India in suspense

Do a Hindu queen and a Muslim conqueror get closer in the lavish Bollywood film “Padmavati”? In India, the question is by no means only of interest to moviegoers and historians.

What did the legendary Queen Padmini dream of shortly before conquering her city of Chittor in the 14th century? This question or its possible cinematic implementation has been the subject of heated controversy in India for weeks, which from the beginning was more in the political than the cinematographic sphere. The dispute reached its preliminary climax at the weekend with the decision of the production company Viacom 18 Motion Pictures to postpone the theatrical release of the historical drama “Padmavati”, one of the most expensive Bollywood productions to date, which is planned for December 1st.

Legend with hero status

The film is set at the time of the expansion of the Sultanate of Delhi, the first major Muslim empire on Indian soil. Sultan Alauddin Khalji conquered a number of Hindu empires, including 1303, after a long siege, the fortress city of Chittor in what is now the state of Rajasthan. After taking the city, Khalji ordered a massacre of the Hindu population. According to legend, Khalji was only after the fabulously beautiful wife of King Ratan Sen in Chittor. In order to avoid the shame, Padmini, also called "Padmavati", chose the honorable way of self-immolation. Neither Khalji's romantic motif nor the figure of Padminis are historically secured.

The film named after the queen plays with this legend. On the part of radical Rajputs, a traditional warrior caste in northwest India to which many royal families in Rajasthan belong, "Padmavati" was suspected early on of tarnishing the memory of the queen who was revered as a heroine. Rumors about a dream scene in which Padmini and Khalji are supposed to get closer together caused particular anger. The two main actors Deepika Padukone and Ranveer Singh - he is the new brand ambassador for Switzerland Tourism in India - have already appeared as lovers in earlier films. Assurances by the director Sanjay Leela Bhansali that there are no intimate scenes between the two protagonists in “Padmavati” remain ineffective. The film set was destroyed several times and Bhansali was physically attacked.

The debate throws another spotlight on the cultural war over the national identity of India, which has been intensifying for a number of years. In their pursuit of a Hindu renaissance in India, the Hindu nationalist right regards the almost thousand-year history of Islamic empires in the subcontinent as hostile foreign rule whose cultural influence must be suppressed. The fact that India is essentially shaped by the coexistence and coexistence of Hindu and Islamic communities is ignored.

Side effect of the election campaign

In the past few weeks, the dispute over “Padmavati” has continuously come to a head. Protesters, some of which were violent, demanded a ban on the film and death threats against the leading actors. The conservative government of the state of Uttar Pradesh announced that it would only show the film with censorship. In Gujarat, due to the danger of escalation, politicians called for the cinema release to be postponed to a date after the upcoming elections. In 2002, Gujarat was the scene of serious anti-Muslim riots.

There is also a Rajput community in Gujarat, whose sensitivities must be taken into account. This is likely to have prompted the production company to decide to postpone the start of the film. At least until the end of the increasingly dogged election campaign, no political support for the controversial work can be expected.