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Historical Consciousness as an Immolating Queen

Published onAug 29, 2022
Historical Consciousness as an Immolating Queen

The paper draws from an ongoing research on the mutual constitution of hurt emotions and popular cinema in South Asia. A case in point is the contemporary big-budget Indian film Padmavat (Sanjay L. Bhansali, 2018), which was mired in a national controversy centered on regional-caste identities and historical consciousness in commercial filmmaking. Tracing its lineage to quasi-historical figures represented in Padmavat, the caste group Rajput Karni Sena orchestrated public protests, appeared on primetime television debates and issued bodily threats to film personnel to convey their anger. These protests also tapped into the religiously polarized body politic, fueling deliberations around historical antagonisms involving Hindu-Muslim identities and their contemporary representations. The paper situates the film and the protests in the larger intermedial history of the Padmini story in Indian comics, television and cinema to comment on the fidelity demonstrated by the 21st century Padmavat to its 16th century precursor texts.  Instead of scrutinizing Padmavat for its historical accuracies, I seek to investigate the disposition for a historical discourse in the cinematic image and the surrounding protests.

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