Free Press Journal

Aandhi to Padmaavat: When Bollywood films got embroiled in controversy over historical facts


Not just Padmaavat but many other renowned movies faced flak due to alleged false representation of historical facts onscreen. Sneha Singh takes a note of such controversies

Hindi cinema which is generally renowned (read infamous) for its tadka and masala films, has seen a rise in the number of period dramas, biographies and realistic drama which lacks glamour quotient, but still is able to bang viewers with entertainment, thanks to handful of genius directors who make movies with conscience. Unfortunately, most of the directors are questioned for their content’s credibility when they try to unfold historical events on screen in the form of a film. In the name of culture, history and heritage the so-called ‘sanskaari’ fringe groups never miss a chance to protest such movies with fuelled outrage and gusto. And surprisingly, these so-called helmers of itihaas and sanskriti are opportunists and low-key politicians or fringe groups that have never promoted Indian culture in the right way.

After facing all the fuss, ruckuses, vandalism and death threats Sanjay, Leela Bhansali’s magnum opus starring Deepika Padukone, Shahid Kapoor and Ranveer Singh, Padmaavat (earlier Padmavati) has crossed all the hurdles and now the much-awaited historical drama is set to hit the screens this week. Padmavat, the epic poem was penned by Sufi poet Malik Muhammad Jayasi in 1540 and was written in Awadhi language. An ode to the Queen Padmini, Padmavat glorifies Padmini’s enchanted beauty and foretells how her beauty led to the war between her husband Maha Rawal Ratan Singh of Chittor and most powerful ruler of Khilji Dynasty, Delhi Sultanate – Alauddin Khilji. Sanjay Leela Bhansali has been slammed for allegedly distorting facts and depicting titular Queen Padmavati wrongly by Jaipur based Rajput Karni Sena. Not only Padmaavat but there were other movies that faced flak on similar grounds. Some were opposed for stories, some for titles and some for characters.

Indu Sarkar

A political thriller directed by Madhur Bhandarkar, this was based on India’s darkest era after Independence, Emergency, which was imposed by the late Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, when Congress had strong political hold all over nation. Reportedly, the movie irked Congress party and they demanded to watch the film before it was sent to Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC). Congress party members were concerned and worried about the portrayal of party leaders in the film. Priya Singh Paul, who claims to be Sanjay Gandhi’s daughter, approached Bombay High Court seeking a stay on film. However, HC dismissed her plea. Later Singh moved to Supreme Court demanding the same where her plea was rejected and the movie was finally released on July 28, 2017. The film stars Niel Nitin Mukesh and Kirti Kulhari in key roles.

Mohenjo Daro

Looks like Ashutosh Gowariker loves to make historical dramas like Lagaan, Jodha Akhbar and Mohenjo Daro. Hrithik Roshan and Pooja Hegde starrer Mohenjo Daro was all about Indus Valley civilization. Sadly, Indian historians were not much impressed with the trailer of the film and they alleged creators of the film for distorting the facts about Harrapan civilization. Historians also alleged that the makers lacked knowledge about Vedic age and Indus Valley civilization. However, Mohenjo Daro failed to strike a chord with audience as well.

Bajirao Mastani

If you think Padmaavat is Bhansali’s first movie to face uproar by people then you’re totally wrong. Because 2015 blockbuster hit Bajirao Mastani, starring Ranveer Singh, Deepika Padukone and Priyanka Chopra in lead roles irked descendants of the great Maratha warrior, Peshwa Bajirao I. As per Marathas they were unhappy about way Peshwa and Kashibai were depicted in the movie. Similarly, like Padmaavat, here also Bhansali was accused for distortion of facts and story about the Maratha warrior. The popular song Pingaa was also opposed by Kashibai’s descendants as they claimed Peshwa women were barred to dance publicly in any social gatherings. Bajirao ne Mastani se mohabbat ki hai aiyaashi nahi could be a memorable dialogue for you, but Marathas were fumed and slammed this dialogue as too vulgar for a King like Bajirao.

Jodhaa Akbar

Sanjay Leela Bhansali is not the only one to face the Karni Sena’s wrath. Ashutosh Gowariker was also under their radar during the release of his epic romantic drama Jodhaa Akbar. The movie that focused on the love story of Mughal emperor Akbar and his Rajput queen Jodha Bai of 16th century was also criticised by historians showing inaccurate historical events. Hrithik Roshan as Emperor Akbar and Aishwarya Rai Bachhan were seen in titular roles. The movie was banned in Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Haryana and Uttarakhand.

Mangal Pandey – The Rising

Bollywood’s Mr Perfectionist Amir Khan played the titular role in Hansal Mehta’s biographical drama Mangal Pandey – The Rising, which was based on the life of Mangal Pandey a renowned freedom fighter who played a key role in outbreak of Indian Rebellion 1857. Several successors of Mangal Pandey filed a PIL against filmmakers alleging that movie showed Mangal Pandey in bad light. Then opposition party BJP along with Samajwadi Party demanded ban on the film, opponents were also fussed over a character played by Rani Mukherji, which played the role of a brothel dancer named Hira. They objected the Pandey’s closeness with Hira in the film. Balia, Mangal Pandey’s native place, saw a massive protest against the release of the film.

The Legend of Bhagat Singh & 23rd March 1931: Shaheed

Based on the life of fearless fighter Bhagat Singh, both these movies released in the same year, 2002. The Legend of Bhagat Singh starring Ajay Devgn was accused of glorifying Russia in a scene where he was shown reading a book on Lenin. In 23rd March 1931: Shaeed, Bobby Deol who played Bhagat Singh received flak from the martyr’s family. In Ajay Devgn starrer movie Bhagat was shown engaged to a girl from Manawale Gaon. On the contrary, his family denied the fact by saying he was never engaged to any girl. The Deol starrer Bhagat Singh movie was asked to cut off several hanging scenes. Followers of Mahatma Gandhi were unhappy with the films, because Gandhi was not shown in a good light.


Bollywood’s Badshaah Shahrukh Khan played the lead character of Emperor Asoka (Samrat Ashoka) of Maurya Dynasty who almost ruled the entire Indian subcontinent from 268 to 232 BCE. According to the historians the movie lacked thorough research on Kalinga War which is regarded as one of the largest and bloodiest war in Indian history. Director Santosh Sivan was accused for creating cinematic twists and turns in the film. Historians lambasted the filmmakers for twisting historical events and that the film could cast a wrong impact on culture and heritage in Orrisa. Several political leaders protested and urged Chief Minister of the state for banning the film in Orrisa.


Back in 1975, Gulzar made a political drama starring Sanjeev Kumar and Suchitra Sen in lead roles which faced flak by many Congress leaders as at that time it was alleged that the movie was based on the life of late Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and her relationship with her estranged husband.  During the reign of Indira Gandhi, the film was banned during the infamous Emergency of 1975, a few months after its release. It was only when Indira Gandhi lost elections in 1977, the movie got premiered on state-run television channel.  Sanjeev Kumar and Suchitra Sen won accolades for their work in the movie and the film won Filmfare for the Best Critic Award for the best movie.