Indian filmmakers must always face this dilemma while making period movies with historical figures, whether to stay true to history or add enough “masala” to pull the general masses into the theaters. The same seems to be unfolding with Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s latest offering to Bollywood, “Bajirao Mastani”. Peshwa Bajirao’s descendant Mohini Karkare has criticized the director for distorting historical facts in an open letter.
According to her, making Kashibai dance to the tunes of “Pinga” is quire unacceptable because Kashibai had developed a limp as she suffered from arthritis and tuberculosis. Even if Kashibai was fit to dance, she wouldn’t have as the social customs and culture at that time didn’t allow married women to take part in such activities. Mohini also pointed out that the “Pinga” ritual demanded women wear the traditional “Nauvari” or nine yard long saari which covered the whole body carefully. But in the film both Kashibai and Mastani wear low-waist saaris while exposing their mid-reefs.
Sanjay has depicted Mastani as a prostitute in the movie but Mohini claims in real life Mastani was the daughter of Bundelkhand’s Raja Chatrasaal and second wife of Bajirao. Mohini asked if Sanjay had done any research at all before making the movie as these details could be easily confirmed by Nawabs of Banda, Raja Chatrasaal’s descendants.
“In real life, Kashibai and Mastani met only once”, Mohini added, hence there is no evidence of them dancing together. Many people have started calling the movie “Devdas 2” and the song “Dola Re 2”, as the plot of the movie and the song brings back memories of Aishwarya Rai and Madhuri Dixit grooving to the tunes of “Dola Re” in “Devdas”.
The question remains, in order to satisfy the common movie buff, has Sanjay taken too much of a leap from facts? There has been no comment from Sanjay so far on the letter by Mohini so we all wait for a formal remark from the filmmaker. For now, it looks like Bajirao Mastani is in enough hot water.