More in opinion


Tuesday, 13 February 2018 | MYT 12:00 AM

In support of ban on movie

I REFER to the letter by Ariff Shah R. K on the negative portrayal of Sultan Alauddin Khilji, the ruler who was depicted as a monster and savage in the controversial film Padmaavat, “Thorny issue of turning history into film” (The Star, Feb 9). The writer himself devoted the later part of his letter to depict the monstrous behaviour of the king.

History can never capture the past with accuracy. Nor should we pay too much attention to literary epics as they are the products of literary personalities who have what we call poetic licence albeit there may be some actual instances.

Rulers of the past, Christian, Hindu and Muslim included, were absolute monarchs who were feared tremendously as they presided over life and death. They were not often guided by the dictates of their respective religions, except for some who ruled with spiritual inclinations.

Let us now look at the issue separately for the sake of neutrality and objectivity. The Hindu, a hugely popular and respectable newspaper in India, in its History and Culture segment has commented that there are no historical records to show that Alauddin yearned for Rani Padmini of Chittoor (Feb 12, 2017).

Malik Muhammed Jaisi, a poet, penned the epic poem Padmavat wherein he imagined the romance between a fearless Muslim king and a married Hindu queen of much beauty. The Hindu goes on to add that Padmini was not a real Rajput princess but a beautiful damsel from Sri Lanka whom Jaisi thought of as someone similar to Helen of Troy, that paragon of beauty in Greek mythology.

The much-described scene where Alauddin gets a glimpse of Padmini’s image in a mirror is again an example of poetic licence, a liberty enjoyed by poets. Noted historians have discounted narratives about Alauddin trying to covet Padmini. His purported interest in Padmini who is believed to be a fictional princess, and by many as also a real person, has captured the interest of many whatever the motivations may be.

Apart from the Padmavat episode, there are articles on Alauddin’s positive side. He was a great military leader and strategist. He is credited with saving Hindu and Islamic influences from the onslaught of the ruthless Mongols. Present-day India would be a different picture if the Mongols had succeeded in ransacking the many Muslim and Hindu kingdoms.

He is said to have instituted many administrative reforms. He was a patron of learning and patronised scholars including the famous Amir Khusrau who wrote the classic Ishqiya (In Love). He is also reputed to have built monuments and other buildings of architectural value.

About Malik Kafur who is said to be his eunuch lover and slave general, one wonders if it is indeed true. Why would Alauddin send him so far away to the south, as far as Madurai, and not keep him close?

Alauddin was no angel but just an average ruler with all the human weaknesses. Scholars of history and laypeople need to judge him in the right historical and social perspective and not on hindsight. The Film and Censorship Board of Malaysia was right, I believe, in not approving the screening of the film.