Shivani Sahasrabudhe (MeraNews, Ahmedabad): Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s yet-to-be-released film ‘Padmavati’ may have raised the hackles of self-styled activists, but most of the residents of Ahmedabad that MeraNews spoke with feel the historical epic should be released, albeit with the sentiments of the Rajput community in mind.

“The movie should certainly be released,” said Deepak Singh Chauhan, 35, a financial consultant and resident of Bodakdev. “It is a very sentimental and touchy issue for the Rajputs as a community. We worship Padmavati like a goddess. It is not just a community issue, but also a religious one. So the stakeholders of the community should approve it and then only should the movie be released.”

The film has been at the receiving end of protests right since it started production, with a set being vandalized in January and the director being assaulted a month earlier. Prominent Rajput community groups, including the Shri Rajput Karni Sena, have alleged that the film, with Deepika Padukone playing the titular character, distorts historical facts. The film is scheduled to release on 1 December, and features Ranveer Singh as Alauddin Khilji, the ruler of the Delhi Sultanate, and Shahid Kapoor as Ratan Singh, who was defeated by Khilji at Chittor.

“The movie should not be released as the story they have shown is completely wrong. Padmini is like our goddess. If they are wrongly interpreting the facts just to fill their pockets, we are not going to keep quiet. We have tried to make them understand. So by any means we will not allow the film to be released,” said Pragnaba Jhala, 47, a network marketing executive who lives in Bopal.

While political parties and leaders have weighed in on the issue—from the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Gujarat to former Congress leader Shankersinh Vaghela—incidents of vandalism continue across the state as well as neighbouring Rajasthan, where the protests are more vehement. Last month, a large rangoli made as part of the promotion for the film in Surat was destroyed by a large group of people shouting religious slogans.

Pratap Singh Khachariyawas, president of the Congress party’s Jaipur unit, has called for a ban on the film, while, more recently, a mall in Kota in Rajasthan was vandalized on Tuesday.

“There is no point in opposing the release of the movie. To talk about culture and rituals is a completely wrong approach,” said Reema Vakharia, 25, a marketing manager for Porsche in Ahmedabad. “’Padmavati’ is a film, and I would suggest to people not to relate their lives to films,” she said.

This view of keeping real and reel life separate was also expressed by Maher Vakharia, a law student.

“The censor board has the discretionary power to accept or reject a movie. I feel the movie should be released, and people should watch it for entertainment purposes only,” he said.

‘Padmavati’ is yet to be cleared by the Central Board for Film Certification, which falls under the Union ministry of information broadcasting. The producers have said they are ready to screen film before any audience once they receive the censor board’s certification.

Meanwhile, Akshita Joshi and Vaidehi Brahmbhatt are keenly awaiting the film’s release.

“The trailer for ‘Padmavati’ left everyone stunned. The possibility of a romantic scene (between Padukone and Singh’s characters) has led to the controversy over the film. But Sanjay Leela Bhansali has denied the allegations and given an assurance that there will not be any issues that could hurt the sentiments of the Rajputs. I’m looking forward to the film,” said Joshi, who is pursuing a master’s degree in computer applications.

Brahmbhatt, who is studying interior design and architecture, said she is curious about the lifestyle of the Rajputs portrayed in the film. “It is an epic way to show us how the Rajputs lived. The issues that led to the controversy are somewhat true from their (the protestors) point of view, but I feel the film should be released. It will have a big impact on the box office, and I’m really looking forward to watching a film like this,” she said.