As "Padmavati" crisis escalates and the film's release got deferred 'voluntarily', veteran filmmaker Shyam Benegal was highly critical of the behaviour of The Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC).
The filmmaker who headed a committee to recommend reforms on the censor board's working, has strong words of censure for the panel. "I must say the CBFC is behaving very strangely in the matter of 'Padmavati'. If the film did not carry a disclaimer it could easily be corrected. Why send the film back? Again it seems very suspicious," said Benegal.
Benegal, who faced a furious backlash in his time for his cinema on socio-cultural equality, is baffled by the extent of the "Padmavati" uproar:
I am sorry I can't comment on 'Padmavati'. I haven't seen it, have you? No one has seen it. Yet there are hordes of people objecting to its content. Does that make any sense? I can't understand how the protest has spread across the nation when hardly anyone has seen the film. How can the protest against a film become so rampant when no one has seen the film, no one knows the content.
I am sorry, the protests make no sense unless we judge them against the political current political climate in the country.
Benegal, whose films like "Ankur", "Nishant", "Manthan" focused on the evils of the caste system, sees a pattern of vote-bank politics in the protests against "Padmavati". He also said:
This is being done to consolidate the Rajput vote. Now, you must understand that the Rajput community is not one homogenized community across the country.
The Rajputs of Rajasthan possess a different mindset and cultural inclination as compared with the Rajputs in other parts of India. And even those Rajputs in different regions outside Rajasthan are diverse in their outlook. By raking up the 'Padmavati' non-issue, the Karni Sena hopes to homogenize the Rajputs across the country and unite them over an utterly irrelevant crisis. Sadly their ploy seems to be working. If I am from a particular caste and you tell me my cultural heritage is threatened I will naturally react against the threat.
Benegal urges the protesters to get reasonable and added, "Wait for 'Padmavati' to release then pass your verdict. What is the point in commenting on a film whose content has not been exposed to the public?"