Creatively flawed, but promoting Hindu nationalism is a false charge against Akshay Kumar’s Samrat Prithviraj

Certain section of the media has failed to gauge the inclusive element of director Dr. Chandraprakash Dwivedi’s film. Besides, Akshay Kumar’s last few films have been plural in nature.

By Mayur Lookhar

No one debated history while reading it in school text books. Many years later, many critics, commentators, netizens all are behaving like historians. The current debate revolves around the historical film Samrat Prithviraj [2022]. The Akshay Kumar-starrer, Yash Raj Films production has largely struggled at the box office.  And it’s evoked mixed reviews. History is subjective and we leave that debate to genuine historians. What surprises us though is how certain section of the media, mainly left-liberals, are running down the film, the actor and wrongly attributing the word Hindu nationalism to Samrat Prithviraj [2022].

Ah, Beyond Bollywood is sycophant, a right-wing portal. The left cabal is likely to throw such dirt on us. Well, we don’t care. For the record, we, too, didn’t find Samrat Prithviraj a masterpiece. But our constructive criticism of the film purely stems from our cinematic sensibilities.  

It belies belief as to how some media perceive the film to be promoting Hindu nationalism. Is it because of the actor’s political affiliations? Does posing with a Narendra Modi, Amit Shah, Yogi Adityanath make Akshay Kumar a ring-wing supporter? Does it mean that Kumar supports that ideology? Both Samrat Prithviraj and Dhaakad’s [2022] disappointing show is a reminder that political affiliations have no bearing on box office. Perhaps, The Kashmir Files [2022] might be the lone exception here.

It’s important to know whether Samrat Prithviraj was promoted as a Hindu nationalist film? Is its content full of Hindu nationalism? After watching the film, we don’t think so. And there are good reasons.

Akshay Kumar, Manushi Chhillar (C) and Dr. Chandraprakash Dwivedi (R)

Firstly, the writer, director Dr. Chandraprakash Dwivedi has not made a film like a Hindu king vs Muslim invader battle.  The cause of this war lied in Prithviraj Chauhan sheltering Mir Hussain and his Hindu lover Chitralekha. Hussain was the kin of Muhammad Ghori, while Chitralekha was Ghori’s slave. Despite the advice of his court men, Prithviraj [Akshay Kumar] decides to provide them shelter. This act became the cause of friction with Muhammad Ghori, but is it Hindu nationalism?

When they first meet, Prithviraj opens his hand to offer a salaam [Islamic way of greeting], while Hussain is about to offer a namaste [Hindu way of greeting]. Does that make the film Hindu nationalistic? After he is killed in the battle, Mir Hussain’s Hindu lover Chitralekha expresses a desire to be buried next to her man. Against the wishes of his men, Prithviraj decides to honour her last wish. Is that Hindu nationalism?

In few scenes, the key Hindu characters use Urdu words. Dwivedi has acknowledged the early Islamic influence in the region – Ajmer, then capital of Prithviraj’s Sapadalaksha territory. Then in the climax, a weakened Prithviraj offers a salaam to the people of Ghazni [later part of Afghanistan].  Is that Hindu nationalism? The 100 per cent Muslim civilians hail the bravery of Prithviraj. While that maybe fiction, but Muslims cheering a Hindu king, does that make it a film on Hindu nationalism?

Any sane, humble person won’t call this Hindu nationalism.  Yes, there is a scene where Samrat Prithviraj talks of how in 1026, Mahmud of Ghazni had destroyed the holy Somnath Temple in Gir district [present day Gujarat]. Isn’t that a fact?  Didn’t the barbaric invader slaughter many pilgrims then?

It is remarkable how any film, content having a Bharatiya hero fighting an Islamic invader quickly evokes talks of Islamophobia, Hindu nationalism. There are no such talks when the invaders are British. Religion is immaterial but an invader will forever be called an invader.

As Akshay Kumar faces the Hindu nationalism charge again, we’d like to remind such critics, netizens that three of Akshay Kumar’s last five films stand out for their plural values. Yes, a Sooryavanshi [2021] had certain elements that bordered on Islamophobia, but much to the surprise of many viewers, the same film also saw a respectful funeral for a terrorist.  

Kumar played a Muslim in Laxmii [2020] and Atrangi Re [2021]. We listed the reasons for Samrat Prithviraj’s pluralistic aspect earlier. Astonishingly, it was the right-wing trolls who slammed Akshay Kumar for playing Muslim characters or promoting love jihad in Laxmii and Atrangi Re. Did the left cabal defend Kumar against the right-wing trolls?

Also, don’t forget the actor’s philanthropy is not selective. We recall an article where Akshay Kumar had offered financial help to family of the young Muslim boy who was lynched by radical villagers in Jharkhand.  

Sadly, today the media is largely divided into either left or right ideologies, which perhaps has corrupted cinematic sensibilities of certain section of the media. As for political affiliations, Akshay Kumar is certainly not the first actor to mingle with politicians who are currently in power at the centre. For long, the high and mighty of cinema happily posed with the earlier government, political parties who ruled the country, state for long. At least, Kumar is posing with country’s top political leaders and not underworld dons.

History is replete with many tales, especially in the 80s and 90s where some top Bollywood actors merrily posed with underworld dons like Dawood Ibrahim, Haji Mastan, Karim Lala. We live in times, where Bollywood thrives in making stories on such characters, glorying these criminals as anti-hero.  Underworld dons, smugglers became anti-heroes whereas as righteous men characters don’t find much takers.

Question/slam an Akshay Kumar over selective views on political, economic crisis. Ridicule his films if they are of poor cinematic standards. But this Hindu Nationalist hero is totally an unjustified charge. Sadly, the polarized political ideologies have slipped into film critiquing too. Remember, it is a pen, keyboard in digital age, but not a sword.


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