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The Times of India
The Times of India

Maharashtra politics hots up over movies, remarks on Shivaji Maharaj

MUMBAI: The political temperature in Maharashtra has soared in the last fortnight over protests against movies on Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj and controversial remarks made on him by Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari. Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP) national spokesperson Sudhanshu Trivedi also faced a flak for "insulting" Shivaji Maharaj during a television debate.

On Saturday, Koshyari stoked a controversy by saying at a function in Aurangabad that Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj was an icon of "olden days".

His comments triggered a political storm in Maharashtra with activists of the opposition Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), the Congress, the Shiv Sena (Uddhav Balasaheb Thackeray), and other outfits staging protests against the remarks deemed as an "insult" to the 17th century Maratha warrior king and also the state, and called for Koshyari's ouster from the Raj Bhavan.

Even the ruling BJP disapproved of the governor's remarks. Deputy chief minister Devendra Fadnavis, a senior BJP leader, "One thing is clear, Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj will remain a hero and idol of Maharashtra and our country till the Sun and the Moon exist. Even Koshyari had no doubts about this in his mind. Thus, there are various meanings derived from the remarks made by the governor."

Maharashtra BJP president Chandrashekhar Bawankule said the Governor should not have compared Union minister Nitin Gadkari and NCP chief Sharad Pawar with the legendary Maratha warrior king.

Sanjay Gaikwad, an MLA from the Shiv Sena faction led by Chief Minister Eknath Shinde -- an ally of the BJP -- went one step further and demanded that the governor be shifted out of the state for the controversial remarks.

"Earlier, when you would be asked who your icon is -- Jawaharlal Nehru, Subhas Chandra Bose and Mahatma Gandhi used to be the answers. In Maharashtra, you need not look elsewhere (as) there are so many icons here. While Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj is of olden time, there are Ambedkar and Nitin Gadkari," the governor had said.

Reacting to the comments, the Pawar-led party accused him of demeaning Maharashtra, while Sanjay Raut, a key leader of the Shiv Sena (UBT), asked the BJP to spell out its stand on Koshyari's "insult" of Shivaji Maharaj and the state.

Born in 1630, Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj is a deeply revered figure in Maharashtra and remains a rallying point for all major political parties in the state more than three centuries after his death.

The political furore over Koshyari's comments came days after alleged misrepresentation of the 17th century ruler in movies.

Earlier this month, supporters of NCP leader Jitendra Awhad allegedly stormed a theatre in adjoining Thane to stop the screening of just released Marathi movie "Har Har Mahadev".

Awhad, a former minister, alleged the movie distorts the warrior king's history. He was later arrested by the police for allegedly assaulting a businessman who had come to watch the movie.

The Raj Thackeray-led Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) jumped into the controversy and came out in support of the movie.

Last week, Rajya Sabha MP Sambhaji Chhatrapat, a descendant of the Maratha warrior king, met Chief minister Shinde and Fadnavis, and demanded formation of a panel comprising historians and researchers that can check the veracity of what is presented before the public.

Speaking on popularity of Shivaji Maharaj in cinema, film historian SMM Ausaja said the iconic Maratha leader has been a constant feature in many Marathi films for decades like 'Sinhagad' (1923) and 'Udaykal' (1930), both helmed by legendary filmmakers Baburao Painter and V Shantaram.

About criticism of distortion that "Har Har Mahadev" has been facing, he said art and culture should not be politicised.

"We are living in politically-charged times today. Any political party who is in power would like to have creative control (over) what kinds of films are being made and push their own agenda that compliments their own ideology," Ausaja told PTI.

"I believe art and creativity should be above politics, only then we can come up with genuine cinema. There is no dearth of agenda-driven films, the way they are promoted and made tax-free. This is something that should not happen," maintained the film historian.

Another Marathi movie, "Vedat Marathe Veer Daudale Saat", Mahesh Manjrekar's next directorial venture which stars Akshay Kumar in the lead, is in news even before its release.

Sambhaji Chhatrapati has warned that if facts are found "distorted" in any upcoming films based on the legendary warrior king, he would take all efforts to stall their release.

The descendent of Shivaji Maharaj expressed displeasure over two Marathi films - 'Har Har Mahadev' (released recently) and 'Vedat Marathe Veer Daudale Saat' (an upcoming project).

"Using the term cinematic liberty, inaccuracies have been displayed in the recently released 'Har Har Mahadev' and upcoming 'Vedat Marathe Veer Daudale Saat'. I won't tolerate the distortion of historical facts in movies based on Shivaji Maharaj," he said.

Asked about the criticism of his upcoming film, director Manjrekar refrained from expressing his views.

"Nothing (to talk). This ('Vedat Marathe Veer Daudle Saat') is a story about seven warriors," the actor-director said.

To a query on the interest of filmmakers in Shivaji Maharaj, Manjrekar said there is "nothing like fascination".

At a press conference, actor Akshay Kumar expressed his excitement about getting an opportunity to play Shivaji Maharaj in his Marathi acting debut feature.

"I am playing the role of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj. I got the role because of (MNS leader) Raj Thackeray, he told me, 'Akshay you should do this role'," said the Bollywood superstar.

Film trade expert Girish Wankhede said in the past movies made on Shivaji Maharaj and his associates have been successful at the box office as the founder of the Maratha empire continues to fascinate filmmakers.

Wankhede said Manjrekar-starrer "Me Shivajiraje Bhosale Boltoy" (2009) earned Rs 25.5 crore at the box office, "Hirkani" (2019) helmed by Prasad Oak minted Rs 12 crore, Hindi movie "Tanhaji: The Unsung Warrior" collected Rs 280 crore and "Har Har Mahadev" (released on October 25) did a business of Rs 9.75 crore in 13 days.

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