Examining the social censorship of the Mughal Period Dramas[1]

Abstract: India has a controversial censor board, infamous for its obstruction to artistic productions that are injurious to social imagination. A genre beloved of its frequent criticism is historical fiction on screen; and for ages since the inception of this genre, films like Anarkali, Mughal – E – Azam, Taj Mahal, Jodhaa Akbar, Rang Rasiya, Bajirao Maastani, etc., have faced its wrath. Even period dramas that strove to portray the social scenario of a respective historical period like Pakeezah, Umraojaan, Antarmahal: A View of the Inner Chamber, Shatranj Ke Khiladi, Kama Sutra, and alike have been subjected to vicious vituperation. The present paper seeks to analyse how celluloid censorship works in India in respect to films “inspired” by history. It takes into account the sense and sensibilities in issues of group and individual identities pertaining to the historic past .i.e., historical digression, idolization of a ruler, portrayal of female desires and defiance, uneasy sexuality, group subjugation, etc. The paper will also examine how the “objectionable and hence censored” content has been defended, and how in the process of this constant fray, the projection of the Indian historical past has developed, deconstructed and reconfigured itself. The films and censorship have, indeed, shaped the way history, as well as historical factuality, morality and identity have been perceived by the masses; and the paper aims at an anatomy of this constant friction by taking into account reputed Indian films of the historical genre. Moreover, an attempt is made to draw parallels in the reception of the historical fiction between India, and the Western countries.

Keywords: Films; Historical Fiction; Censorship; Group; Individual; Historical; Factuality; Identity; Morality; Perception; India; Western.

We live in the age of period dramas. Whether it is Bollywood, Hollywood, the BBC, ITV, or Channel 4, we are over-whelming handed a bucket-list of ‘historical films’ comprising actors in gorgeous costumes, acting out a tale of romance or intrigue, with ornamental verbosity. We take pleasure in the history repeating itself in front of our very eyes, offence when the ‘historian’ director takes liberties with the treasures of the Past, and arms when the ‘depiction’ involves an alternate narrative to the institutionalized one. The act of perceiving a piece of artistry is art; and indeed, perceiving the history in films is one such feat. The irony is that we take pride in ‘what’ is playing out before us, mistaking fiction for fact, and expecting the shots to be supplemented by footnotes and historicity, and evermore, refuting the essence of the celluloid: artistic license.

The present paper seeks to analyse how social censorship works in India in respect to films “inspired” by history. It takes into account the sense and sensibilities in issues of group and individual identities pertaining to the historic past. The paper will also examine how the “objectionable and hence censored” content has been (intellectually and liberally) defended, and how in the process of this constant fray, the projection of the Indian historical past has developed, deconstructed and reconfigured itself. The films and censorship have, indeed, shaped the way history, as well as historical factuality, morality and identity have been perceived by the masses; and the paper aims at an anatomy of this constant friction by taking into account reputed Hindi films of the ‘Mughal’ historical genre, namely Mughal-E-Azam, Anarkali, Taj Mahal, Jodhaa Akbar, Bajirao Maastani, and other honourable mentions.

Reliving history in the present: Period dramas. (A scene from Jodhaa Akbar).

The majority of the infrequent period films made in Bollywood is distinct in essence, being quasi-biopics drawn heavily from “bazaar history”: ‘its presentation of the past, built as it is on images, words, songs, and imagination, is interested in rumour and gossip, to which facts are subsidiary. These stories circulate among members of the public, and they were long preserved in traditions such as bardic compositions and folk songs, poems, and plays.’[2] These films are closely aligned to the founding genres of Indian cinema[3] – “masala” mainstream, the mythological, and the devotional – creating in the process, very nationalist “middle-class” narratives of struggle, sacrifice, and patriotism:

Since it [India] emerged as a potential global power, there has been an on-going reconsideration of history in the context of a growing ideology of Hindu nationalism and of the rise to dominance of the new middle classes, which form the main audience in film culture: films are produced for and consumed by them. The films reflect this group’s understanding of its history and culture – and they do so in what has [been] called the social imaginary.[4] If the leading character is a figure of national stature in India and therefore has to fit the Indian contemporary audience’s requirements of middle-class morality, then that character cannot be shown to be too human or too frail. Portraits must be hagiographic and conceal the unpleasant side of the personality they represent.[5]

Despite the hostile circumstances, the film-makers of the period dramas, however drawing the content from mythicized lore, tend to show the protagonists and the major characters in a light other than legendary. They are humane (and youthful), capable of emotions, follies, and imperfections – personas different from what the dominant idea of history presumes them to be: invincible, stone cold beings represented as they are in historical records. The characters transcend the dystopian to achieve the utopian, thereby earning their elevated status of hagiographical legends created at the sacrificial alter of a greater good. Interestingly, the celluloid portrayal of these historical characters side-line the powerful masquerade of national identity, showing them as beings of relatively obscure origins; whose stories, should they be cast in unbroken narration, must allow fiction to step in where fact lapses. This causes the non-academic, entertaining film-maker to don the hat of the serious history scholar, and provokes the possibility that the former may also have the right to ponder and ‘experiment’ about the Past as the latter. The majority of the controversies courted by Indian period creations, causing the censor (official, social or individual) to wave its ‘patronizing’ banner, are centred on historical digression regarding personal identity, socially abhorred practices, uneasy sexuality, and group subjugation. A closer look at this interaction shows censorship answering to the demands of the revolting national consciousness and degreasing artistic creation; against the liberal and intellectual segments defending the sacredness of artistic expression. Amidst this, the concern of historicity is simply a victim of the catcher in the rye, possessing the potentiality of a volatile politically incorrect countenance when and should the need arises!

  1. Identities of Ambiguity

To begin with the question of controversy of identity of a historical character concerned, the names that come to the fore are those of Anarkali (1953), Mughal-E-Azam (1960), and Jodhaa Akbar (2008). The first two films found themselves mired by controversy over the identity of the central character, the courtesan Anarkali – but the historical inaccuracy was pardoned, given the nature of the foundation story – a romantic lore[6] that was possibly forged to wrap the repulsive oedipal character[7] of Prince Salim (later Emperor Jahangir) into that of a romantically wronged Prince. The character of Akbar is dealt with in dilemma: Anarkali ends with the more popular version of a ruthless Akbar entombing alive the lowly courtesan; Mughal-E-Azam shows a benevolent Akbar secretly leading her into a secret passage to Lahore, to die in oblivion – both portrayals of the historic icon concerning the Personal-Public paternity dynamics, rather than the blatant sympathy of a fragile liaison flourishing under the roof of ruthless Mughal royalty (as is the subject in western films like Diana [2013] and A Royal Affair [2012]) . The 1960s was also the infant era of Bollywood, with a tumultuous political timeline and law-makers were embroiled with social rather than moral welfare, to comment legally on the effect of ‘courtesan’ culture on the audience, youth or otherwise. Needless to say, Anarkali had the nerve to declare a safety valve epilogue of the “legendary romance [having] no foundation whatsoever in history”[8]; pointing to ‘the situation of film reception in the early fifties, when any sort of historical portrayal relating to Muslims could stir up controversy’[9]. However, subsequent adaptations of the same lore passed without much of a fuss. Even the 1968 Noorjahan dealing with the ‘chaotic’ early life of more empirical a figure like Noor Jahan served the cards of ‘confusing’ identity to add to the appeal of a heroine who braves all odds to entice an emperor. Maybe, with time, the picture of a tragic relationship between the heir of an Emperor and a fated ‘unknown’ commoner grew in appeal, to feed the melodramatic diaspora of the sentimental Indian.

The mysterious Anarkali: A scene from Mughal-E-Azam.

With its screening banned in several states like Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Uttarakhand, it is Jodhaa Akbar that felt the full brunt of misspelled ethnic identity in the more ‘conscious’ time of today:

Rajputs in Rajasthan have blocked the screening of the big budget film, accusing Gowarikar of distorting history. The film shows Jodhaa as Akbar’s wife, and Gowarikar claims he has the backing of historians and a royal family of Rajasthan to prove it. Narendra Singh Rajawat, head of the Rajput Sabha, had said Gowarikar is presenting Jodhabai as Mughal emperor Jalaluddin Akbar’s wife, which is factually incorrect. He also said that Jodhabai was not the daughter of Raja Bharmal of Amber near Jaipur as shown in the film. Jodhabai was the daughter of Motaraja Udai Singh of Marwar and was married to Akbar’s son Salim alias Jehangir. Mughal king Shahjahan was her son, he added. The president of the Rajput Karni Sena, Lokendra Singh Kalvi, is also up in arms against the director.[10]

The ambiguous Jodhaa: A scene from Jodhaa Akbar.

The Wikipedia entry of the same film further states:

According to Professor Shirin Moosvi, a historian of Aligarh Muslim University, neither the Akbarnama (a biography of Akbar commissioned by Akbar himself), nor any historical text from the period refer to her as Jodhaa Bai. Moosvi notes that the name “Jodhaa Bai” was first used to refer to Akbar’s wife in the 18th and 19th centuries in historical writings. In Tuzk –e -Jahangiri, she is referred to as Mariam –uz -Zamani. According to historian Imtiaz Ahmad, the director of the Khuda Baksh Oriental Public Library in Patna, the name “Jodhaa” was used for Akbar’s wife for the first time by Lieutenant Colonel James Tod, in his book Annals and Antiquities of Rajasthan. According to Ahmad, Tod was not a professional historian. N. R. Farooqi claims that Jodhaa Bai was not the name of Akbar’s Rajput queen; it was the name of Jahangir’s Rajput wife.[11]

Jodhaa Akbar is no biopic. The controversy over a mere identity appears useless, except that the picture is more complex. Offence is taken at the depiction of the Rajput community; however is the Indian affinal vibe congratulatory, the reduction of the royal couple into a ‘middle-class unit’ is problematic. ‘The Hindu wife wants to feed her husband as part of her wifely duties, cooking a vegetarian feast (although Rajputs are non-vegetarian) and to establish herself both as a good Hindu wife and as the power behind the throne. Although Akbar’s mother is very welcoming to her daughter-in-law, the evil wet-nurse, Maham Anga, plays the wicked mother-in-law in a manner familiar from the popular saas-bahu (mother/daughter-in-law) genre of Indian television’[12]. Secondly, the film unconsciously caters to the conceited violation of the bodily ‘Hindu’ purity by the ‘Islamic’ invader – a needless offence in the light of recent historical scholarship declaring Jodhaa to be a Portuguese princess[13]. If Jodhaa Bai is strewn across Mughal monuments and guidebooks[14], then so is she nested in the consciousness of a community at a conjugal juncture from which stemmed diplomatic and cross-cultural harmony in one of the most vital friendships of Mughal history. Unfortunately, reducing a political and powerful princess into a typical submissive wife is what the film does at the end, despite the scenes and dialogues praising Jodhaa for her valorous ‘Rajput qualities’. To claim her as the ‘wife’ of both the father and son, she faces an oedipal character assassination, similar to the one faced by the interpretation of the Anarkali myth. Except that a courtesan or a common harem woman could easily pass for a questionable character – a royal woman (who represented her community at Court) given in matrimonial alliance cannot. Film critiques and historians have praised the brilliant period creation and the elegant story line, repeatedly reminding that the film is no history lesson. It is not a representative of the Past; rather it is an entertaining recreation of the same. Akbar had dominant women characters in his life, but cursed as they were of oblivion – it trickles down to imagination to patch the loopholes in the private dyke of a personal monarchy of the 16th century. The film is an endearing treatment of the emotional voyage of two human beings transcending the man-made barriers of religion and culture; laying before the audience “a passionate plea for tolerance of all religions in India, a resonant message for modern India”[15].

2. ‘Uneasy’ Sexuality

Bajirao Mastani: Harem politics at its best.

An interesting part of period drama is its constant obsession with ‘the woman’s story’, or rather the ‘zenana story’. Women, particularly the powerful ones attired in the tame drab of submission, have always proved to be enticing legend-making machines. Domesticity propels Indian period dramas, as Stephan Heath says – “the consistent force of the narrative of history given is familial and family history” so that ‘history is provided the perfection of a story’. ‘The “absence” of history is the “presence” and “present” of film in the sense that film or any other narrative form tries to grasp and render history in each telling. Moreover in the Indian narrative tradition, family history is not strictly demarcated from social history.’[16] The vivid portrayal of the power fray amongst the dusky figures; that appear in history books in endless appellations of nil acknowledgement .i.e., “one of his wives”, “a mistress”, “a princess”, “a lady”, etc., contribute to making the core of each plotline very personal and relatable. However, the importance given to dominating, egotistical femme fatales portray the (frequently epic) male character as one unfortunately trapped in a malicious combat, and a pitiful victim of the same. Both Jodhaa Akbar and Bajirao Mastani (2015) portray the vivid tug of war between the wife (Jodhaa) and mother-in-law (Maham Anga); and the wife (Kashibai), mistress (Mastani), and mother-in-law (Radhabai) respectively. The Young Akbar, and the Young Peshwa undergo an emotional turmoil, being locked in the maze of female salacity. Taj Mahal (1963) comprises the fray between Arjumand Banu (later Mumtaz Mahal) and Noor Jahan over the exertion of a ‘politico-matrimonial’ alliance over the young Shah Jahan, plunging into imbalance the relationship he shared with his father, Jahangir. Anarkali, and Mughal-E-Azam show Akbar locked in combat with Anarkali over his son, Salim; at the end, he resorts to the unjust solution of interring her alive. Taking up the case of the latter, Wani notes in Fantasy of Modernity[17]:

The song Pyar Kiya To Darna Kya is central to the [Mughal-E-Azam] film’s diegesis as it stages the open rebellion of the lowly court dancer. [In her conditioned last dance at court] Anarkali’s dance, the lyrics, and the performance, is a shock to both Akbar and Salim, the one being smug and the other in despair, as her opening words declare the courage of love – pyar kiya to darna kya. Staged with spectacular mise-en-scene; the multiple reflections of the dancer in the mirrors [of the Shishmahal], the song announces the ultimate triumph of love – chhup na sakegaa ishq humara, chaaron taraf hai unakaa nazaaraa. As Anarkali proclaims the fearlessness of the lovers in the face of any mere worldly power, her defiant words, parda nahi jab koin khuda se, bando se parda karna kya? Directly questions Akbar’s authority. Underscoring the faultlines of this oppressive relationship, the song is also the site of Anarkali’s transformation as she stakes a claim on personal autonomy and freedom [namely the arrival of the individual via love].

The song sequence Pyar Kiya to Darna Kya from Mughal-E-Azam.

Salim’s favouritism of Anarkali not only provokes Akbar’s antagonism, but also that of the harem ladies. In Anarkali, Anarkali is drugged into delivering a shameful public performance by Gullar, a harem lady competing for the Prince’s affections. In Mughal-E-Azam, the character of Bahar is seen manipulating Akbar, Salim, and Anarkali altogether, to win the coveted crown of Mallika – E- Hindustan. True, the portrayals rescue the otherwise unmentioned figures from the clutches of empirical oblivion, but they derogatorily reduce the female characters to spiteful, disdainful, shallowly rational individuals to whom grasping the ‘power behind the throne’ is the de facto end to all means. The male characters are given their prized justifications – “Bakhuda, hum mohabbat ke dushman nahi, apne usoolon ke gulam hai. Ek gulaam ki bebasi par gaur karogi to shayad tum hume maaf kar sako”[18] or “Bajirao ne Maastani se mohabbat kari hai, aiyashi nahi!”[19]; poetically so. Moreover, the domination of the female silhouette across the narrative is suggestive of lovelorn effeminacy on part of the emotional male characters; an accusation that attacks even the more recent and most valiant of epic heroes on screen. The 1945 films concerning Humayun, Humayun and Ek Din Ka Sultan show a lovesick Humayun falling mortally ill in desperation for the hand of the beautiful Hamida Banu[20]; and giving up his throne for a day to fulfil the wishes of a poor man, respectively. In Anarkali, Salim is shown as extremely effeminate and sentimental, alongside that of a capable soldier; though in Mughal-E-Azam, his martial qualities are particularly enhanced. In Taj Mahal, both Jahangir and Shah Jahan are reduced to henpecked husbands, abiding by their wives’ advice. In Jodhaa Akbar, Akbar is reduced to naught in the cold war between Jodhaa and Maham Anga; whilst in Bajirao Mastaani, Bajirao succumbs ‘mysteriously’ to the extent “Itihas hamesha yehi kahegi ke Peshwa Bajirao ne zindegi ki har jaang ko jeet liya par aapne pariwar ke saamne har gaye”[21]. Interestingly, all these instances give the major note of the reversal of the neat gender roles in the Macbeth – Lady Macbeth dynamics in the Murder Scene, bringing to the forefront the politics of representation in patriarchal narration: the ‘sin’ (of unchecked power, ambition, temptation, or vindictiveness) must always stem from Eve, and Adam should be the untarnished victim of such womanly capriciousness!

Sometimes the genre of historical romance turns out to be problematic. The genre portrays the individual within his blue walls, in an outcry far from the official records. Jodhaa Akbar faced censorship regarding an intimate scene between the two central characters before the climax of the movie. However, this had more to do with personal reasons of the actors than any objection to the expression of a bygone love. Another movie that faced a similar problem is Bajirao Mastani:

The descendants of Peshwa Bajirao I and Mastani also expressed disgust at the scene where Ranveer Singh is seen pouring water over Priyanka Chopra’s head. “Those are private moments. How can you show that? We agree with cinematic liberty but the dignity of the person should be kept intact,” said Uday Singh Peshwa …[22] The historical personalities are always a matter of respect. The picturisation of the said film, the historical references of the period and story appear to be perverted …[23]

The controversial scene from Bajirao Mastani.

The claim that a national figure as Peshwa Bajirao could have committed polygamy, mistreated Brahmins, and chosen to sin proved to be too much for the Maharashtrian Pride. The matter did not stop there. A particular petition demanding its ban read:

It has been found out that the said cinema in the name of cinematic liberty has altered original history. So also, a song has been picturised on the wife of Shrimant Bajirao Peshwa I, Kashibai and Mastani. This incident is not keeping in-line with the history … Moreover, the ‘Pinga’ dance form is an integral part of Marathi culture and has been transformed into an ‘item song’ and the costumes and dance direction are on that lines … The late queen was highly learned and had her own library. Since the late queen Kashibai suffered from a debilitating disease of the knee joints, she could never have been expected to dance. Moreover, the royal ladies never danced in public …[24]

The Pinga song: the ladies of the Peshwai never danced in public!

This accusation has been in line with an observation made by Racheal Dawyer in her essay The Biopic in Hindi Cinema – ‘the Bollywood film form has a problem: nationalist leaders are represented as too revered, too saintly, too uncontroversial – and, besides, they cannot sing and dance …’[25] Indeed, the Indian national heroes should be grave, unnerving, playing out in the popular imagination as beings serving to the cause of the nation without any self-indulgence. In fact, in this case, historical accuracy and invasion into the privacy of such a public figure is attacked in a singular stroke! A scene of physical (sexual) intimacy is a ‘no-no’ in Indian celluloid; a reflection of the uneasy treatment of sex (as a taboo subject) in the country. Historical figures, albeit legendary, have also been human with ‘human needs’ and to portray a ‘hero’ in the light of simply metal masculinity is denying the audience an access to the colourful fresco of such a ‘lavish’ life, because ultimately the legend is never the whole story! Also, it is important to mention here, that the national hero is never of an ‘exclusive’ identity. The associated communal affinity and identity is, to some extent, justified; but the right of ‘prime consideration’ and exclusivity of objection of the ‘descendant family’ over the portrayal of its illustrious ‘ancestor’ is tantamount to reducing the hero of national identity and significance to that of a private one. After all, the scenario is one of ‘collective concern’ requiring fresh perspective now and then, as goes a dialogue from Kapur’s Elizabeth (1995):  “[Her] Majesty’s body and person are no longer [her] own property. They belong to the State”[26].

3. The ‘Nation’ Construct

Time and again, film critics have deemed that the treatment of Nation in the Indian historical, particularly in the aftermath of 1947, comes with the notion and significance of dire gravity. The narratives hark to a personified and traumatized ‘Nation in crisis’ beset with conflict, either communal, imperial, or personal .i.e., the dilemma between family affection and social role. Broadly, the bone of contention is the portrayal of cross-cultural fusion and harmony, which has been accused of deliberate historical distortion, particularly of ‘bending to ideological and bureaucratic pressures [of the ‘peace-mongers’] in assessing the Muslim role in Indian history’[27]:

R.C. Majumdar charged [that] during the freedom struggle, there was a conscious attempt in writing about medieval India, to “rewrite the whole chapter of the bigotry and intolerance of the Muslim rulers towards the Hindu religion. This was prompted by the political motive of bringing together the Hindus and Mussalmans in a common fight against the British”. He adds that during the post-Independence period, Indian historians sacrificed historical accuracy in order to please those in power – “the evil is enhanced by the fact that the Government, directly or indirectly, seeks to utilize history to buttress some definite ideas such as the Gandhian philosophy of non-violence, the artificial conception of fraternal relations between the two great communities of India …”[28]

Historical accuracy aside, the concerned films reflect the attempt made by film-makers to process an image of communal harmony, and the ensuring controversy at the heels of such an attempt. As early as 1945, Humayun met with hate. ‘Made with the best of intentions, the film used the life of the Mughal emperor Humayun to preach the lesson of communal harmony. An advertisement for the film read: “Why do Indians still dream of the India under the Mughals? See the answer in Mehboob productions’ thunderous hit, Humayun!” Unfortunately in the political atmosphere of the time, many Hindus did not take kindly to the film’s attempt to paint the Mughal rule as a golden period of Indian history’[29]. Contrarily to the director’s expectations, even a film based on a canonical text ‘that was apparently far removed from the immediate concerns and controversies of the time [failed to make] a subtler and more sensitive appeal for communal harmony’[30]. Also the portrayal of the first two Mughal emperors is so cohesively gory that even the nationalist (prophetic-?) streak in the song sequence – Jo desh kal nahin thha, woh desh phir hamaara”[31] couldn’t diffuse the tides of criticism!

BeFunky Collagemap
Hindustan as the stage for the ‘play’: (from the top) the opening scenes of Mughal-E-Azam, Jodhaa Akbar, and Bajirao Mastani.

This holds true for all the period dramas concerned; both a virtue and a drawback of these films are that they unconsciously deal with a contemporary context in the setup of a bygone era. For instance, the ‘opening shot of MughalE Azam inscribes Mughal history within the visual frame of the Indian nation’[32] in a raised map of India. In a first person voice, it ‘speaks of being bound in chains (a dual reference perhaps both to British colonialism and to the chains of hatred fomented by the British to break up Hindu-Muslim ties) by the naïve (those suffering from the illusions of power)’[33]. ‘A personified India tells the story of the new nation. In this story Muslims are an integral part of the newly divided nation, which had recently seen the creation of Pakistan as a homeland for Indian Muslims’[34]. Jodhaa Akbar commences with a similar opening shot, and goes on to portray Akbar fervently praying at the dargah of Muin-ud-din Chishti of his “Mughal aasman taale ek mukammal Hindustan ka khwab …”[35] It showed the cross-cultural marriage other than ‘a strategic alliance designed to consolidate Akbar’s unification of India … [it] is also celebrated as showing his respect for Hinduism and other religions, in an early form of Indian secularism that has equal regard for all religions. The film also presents Akbar as very much an Indian, not a Persian-speaking Central Asian outsider – as the Great Mughals are regarded by Hindu nationalists. Like the other films on the Mughals, Jodhaa Akbar is clearly about present-day debates, notably inter-communal marriage and the role of Muslims in shaping India’s history’[36]. Any film set in Mughal India smells of the hagiographical tint of “Indian-ness”, how they made India their home, and nurtured it with “pyar aur nawaza”[37]; thereby establishing their ‘benevolent’ treatment of the subcontinent as the reason behind their successful regime.

Mughal-e-Azam (3)
Akbar – Salim: The war of reinstating Imperium. (A scene from Mughal-E-Azam)

Another aspect associated with the construct of the Nation (not exactly), is the changing portrayal of the “Imperium”[38] with time. In Anarkali, and Mughal-E-Azam, the treatment of the “Imperium” is very personal, hinging on the conflict between the Public and the Private responsibility .i.e., family affection and social role. In both the films, Akbar denies the scandalous match between his heir and a courtesan, not as a father but as an Emperor: “Hum ek ladle bête ke shafiq baap zaroor hai, magar hum shahenshah ke farz ko nazarandaza nahi kar sakte. Hum apne bête ke dhadakte hua dil ke liye Hindustan ki taqdeer nahi baadal sakte.”[39] While the Father in him grieves over his son’s disobedience, the Emperor in him tenaciously concerns himself with dynastic honour, which forms the byword for the “Mughal Saltanat”.  In the narratives, the words “Shahenshah”, “Hindustan”, and “baap” reconfigure themselves continually, bordering on the body politik. In the former, Akbar complains – “Humari ek hi aulaad hai. Taraste hai ki hamara baccha hamein baap kehkar pukare. Lekin who kabhi bhultahi nahi ki hum Shahenshah hai.” His wife, Jodhaa is seen retorting – “isi kusur bacche ka hai ya baap ka?” Nonetheless, when Salim calls his father “Abba Jaan”, Akbar’s glare makes him resort to “Alam Panah”.[40] In the latter, Jodhaa accuses Akbar: “Aap Shahenshah hai. Sirf Shahenshah.” – to which he thunders back with a “Beshaq”.[41] The Shahenshah wants to assert Imperium over his son, just as he does over Hindustan. To him, ‘son’ and ‘kingdom’ merge as the ‘subject’, over which he must hold sway. In the manner he subjugates the discontented kingdom, he seeks to subjugate his discontented son: in the battlefield. The picture is more complex: a ruler who can’t maintain order in his microcosmic domestic sphere is seen as incapable of doing the same in the macrocosmic public sphere. Akbar uses Imperium (the essence of real politik) to reinstate his stately reputation/ identity in the refuted clause of the body politik.[42] The films orchestrate the fated romance as the reason behind Salim’s revolt (a historically documented fact); placing Akbar, with a single stroke of the pen, as a disgruntled Personal and Private Patriarch. To him, even his beloved Salim is not above law; and hence to the Emperor, love and duty become irreconcilable options. “The Crown must win. Must always win”[43] at whatever cost. It is ironic that in Mughal-E-Azam, Anarkali who suffers the full-blown force of the Imperium is also the one who sees the conflicted regretting human face of the Shahenshah. The ‘Mughal Juliet’ fittingly sympathizes with his “azeem-o-shaan saaza”[44], and daintily demarcates what he fails to demarcate within himself (namely the Emperor from the Human):“Shahenshah ki in behisaab bakshishon ke baadle, kaneez Jalaluddin Muhammad Akbar ko apna khoon maaf karti hai.”[45] It is with Taj Mahal and Jodhaa Akbar, which Imperium in the sense of real politik, emerges. Hindustan crystallizes from a mere sentimental symbolic entity to a politico-territorial domain. It doesn’t remain an abstraction anymore. In the former, the Mughal general, Mahabat Khan tells Shah Jahan, in the aftermath of Jahangir’s demise – “Hindustan aapka. Takht aur taj aapka.”[46] In the latter, Akbar undertakes matrimonial alliances for the sake of Mughal imperial hegemony.

It is Bajirao Mastani that gives Imperium a wholly different dimension, reviving alongside its body politik tint. With the tone set by “Har Har Mahadev”[47], accompanied by the desire of “Dilli ke takt pea lehrate hua Marathaon ka dwaj”[48]; and a map of India over which the shadow of the Peshwai army is seen thriftily advancing; the film beguiles the audience with the likes of another political period drama. However, as the film progresses, one sees a familial fray brewing in the imposition of  the Imperium over the purity of the Peshwai bloodline; genealogically, culturally, and religiously. Radhabai, the Peshwa’s mother bluntly delivers the cause of the fray: “Peshwa ke khun mein kisi aur ke khun ke milawat nahi chahiye …”[49] To her, the Mussalman ‘mistress’ of the Peshwa, Mastani is the source of the multiple impurities plaguing the Peshwai; she plots to get her killed because “baat jab samrajya ki ho, to rishte daoh par lagi jaati hai”[50]. Mastani, “The Other”[51] Bundela princess who welds a Peshwa’s fantasies by her very being, turns into a scandalous home-wrecker; inviting doom upon a united confederacy by her misdemeanours. The repeated emphasis on the purity of lineage, and the conflict between the Peshwa and his Peshwai in the imposition of Imperium over his bloodline form the centrality of the film, and the political dimensions recede to the background. Despite being the ultimate narrative of Maratha Nationalism, Bajirao Mastani deconstructs the popular Hindutva ‘iconography’ of the Peshwa by sugar-coating a religious concern with a less controversial secular one: “Humare ladai unke dharm se nahi hai. Humare ladai Mughal saltanat se hai.”[52] The ruthless attempts made at reinforcing a very ‘ethno-religious’ Imperium under a veil of domestic conflict, over the ‘political’ one unwittingly makes the purpose of the film self-defeating.

Sometimes, the period dramas subtly censor the ‘happenings’ of the ‘here and now’, whilst dealing with the sagas of the bygone: ‘the past as always encased in the present, history as allegory’[53]. The films made in the 1950s-1960s offer silent censure, even political satire, to the tumultuous post-Independence Era in their themes, dialogues, songs, etc. The noteworthy example is Taj Mahal, which dealt elaborately on the theme of ‘futile’ war. The song sequence, Jurm-E-Ulfat Pe comprises the couplet:

“Takht kya chiiz hai aur laal‑o‑javaahar kya hai? / ishqvaale to khudaayii bhii luuTaa dete hai.n”[54]

[What is the value of thrones and rubies? / Lovers can sacrifice even divinity.]

The use of the words “takht” (throne) and “laal‑o‑javaahar” (red rubies/jewels) is striking on the lyricist, Ludhianvi’s part. In an overview, the couplet ‘expresses the sentiment that love is so powerful that it transcends wealth, royalty, and even divinity’[55]. A closer look betrays the song referencing the then Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru who was seated on the “takht” of India in 1963, criticizing him ‘for his role in starting the Sino‑Indian War of 1962. Nehru’s stubbornness and refusal to negotiate escalated tensions between India and China, ultimately leading to a war that cost thousands of human lives on both sides. Ludhianvi is using the reference to suggest that lovers are prepared to suffer losses greater than those incurred by Nehru in the war’[56]. Khudaa-E-Barte[57] of the same movie explicitly condemns war in its elevated and soulful composition:

Khudaa‑e‑bartar terii zamii.n par zamii.n kii khaatir, yeh jang kyo.n hai?

Har ek fatah‑o‑zafar ke daaman pe khuun‑e‑insaa.n kaa rang kyo.n hai?

[O superior Lord, why is there this war over land in your world? Why does human blood stain the foothills of every victory and triumph?]

 Zamii.n bhii terii, hai.n ham bhii tere. yeh milkiiyat kaa savaal kyaa hai?

Yeh qatl‑o‑khuu.n ka rivaaj kyo.n hai? yeh rasm‑e‑jang‑o‑jadaal kyaa hai?

Jinhe.n talab hai jahaan bhar kii, unhii.n kaa dil itnaa tang kyo.n hai?

[This land is yours, and we are yours. Then, what is this question of ownership and possession? What are these traditions of bloody murder? What are these rules of wars and disputes? Those who have a desire to rule the world, why are their hearts so troubled?]

Ghariib maao.n shariif bahno.n ko aman‑o‑izzat kii zindagii de

Jinhe.n ataa kii hai tuu ne taaqat, unhe.n hidaayat kii roshnii de

Saro.n me.n kibr‑o‑ghuruur kyo.n hai? dilo.n ke shiishe pe zang kyo.n hai?

[Give poor mothers and noble sisters a life of peace and respect. Give those whom you have blessed with strength and courage a light of guidance. Why are minds filled with pride and arrogance? Why are the mirrors of people’s hearts blemished by rust?]

Qazaa ke raste pe jaanevaalo.n ko bach ke aane ki raah denaa

Dilo.n ke gulshan ujaD na jaaye.n, muhabbato.n ko panaah denaa

Jahaa.n me.n jashn‑e‑vafaa ke badle, yeh jashn‑e‑tiir‑o‑tafang kyo.n hai?

[Give those who are headed on the road to death a way to escape. May the garden of hearts not be uprooted as you provide shelter to love. In this world, instead of a celebration of love, why is there a celebration of arrows and rifles?]

The Khuda-E-Bartar song from Taj Mahal.

In the likes of a war-poet in an anti-war anthem-like symphony, the song deconstructs the ‘glorification of war’, a unique achievement in a culture that worships “War Heroes”. Putting such a song in the lips of a privileged aristocratic woman (Arjumand Banu) who is not expected to feel the brunt of war, the film-makers might have wanted to convey onscreen that even the ‘unaffected rich’ (Bollywood and the Government off-screen, for that matter) feels and sympathises with the misery of the masses; in the process, giving a nod to the Golden Age ruled by a ‘Just and Empathetic’ Emperor, and Empress. Stylized almost like T.S. Elliot or Rob Jacques, the song condemns bloody territorial expansion (of the over-burdened 1962 Sino-Indian War), and reflects the abject wartime sentiments in an infant Nation trying to recover from a 200-year old blow of British colonialism, and adjust itself to the new dynamics of sovereignty. Albeit in an unfavourable note, Taj Mahal rejuvenates the ‘foundational’ fresco of the ‘Nation in Crisis’ awaiting liberation. The inherent masculinity desired in the saviour of the nation is a commonplace construct of the political realism usurped in the virtuality of the celluloid. A perturbed nation needing salvation makes way for it to be saved by a ‘Hero’, further leading to the necessary conferment of his ‘national’, ‘epic’ or ‘saviour of the nation’ status. Indeed, it is patriarchy in all its glory!


The historical film involves three sets of mentalities: the film-maker who considers himself a historian; the historian who thinks that the film-maker should not have the right of historical interpretation in his representation of history; and the audience ‘masses’ who accept the rights of neither historian to interpret history, nor the film-maker to recreate it. These mentalities work when a film, even distantly concerning the term “History”, is created, and released for mass consumption. Censorship, especially social censorship is a reflex reaction to any representation of the past, because ‘as the censors’ aim is to control the past, they do not necessarily distinguish between professional historians and others dealing with the past. They perceive a danger, irrespective of the qualifications of those behind it. Therefore, anyone expressing historical facts or opinions can be targeted. Popular history, whether written, spoken, or visual, is as much a target of censorship as academic history, and probably even more so. Depending on the censor’s need, all periods of history can be targeted.’[58] They do not adhere to scholarly or artistic reasoning of production, overlook the principles involved in the prefiguration of history on celluloid; and thus hysterically react to the historical celluloid!

The paper has tried to show how the different dimensions of historical portrayal arouse speculation, and it locates the manner of portrayal as the factor that influences the dynamics of the reception of the Historical by the masses. The period dramas chosen for analysis are the most popular ones, with 3 characteristics in common: these are the “Muslim Social”[59] films, portraying the ‘Nehruite’[60] visions of the Mughal Era, and though they employ a tentative subversive narrative to speak their art, they eventually reinstate the accepted version of history at the curtain call. The Indian historical genre concerns itself with mass sentiments, and violates the sanctity of historical representation, by the deliberate dramatization of social history to appeal to the audience’s scotoma! But, it’s like attempting to over-feed an ever hungry monster. The official censorship simply associates itself with the modesty of content; obviously, for sexually modest films like the above mentioned, its censure doesn’t apply! Rather it is the masses[61] who claim a censure if anything other than the ‘popular’ versions of history is employed. Herein lies their confusing of the Popular with the Significant. Effigies of directors are burnt, and films are burnt, not because the directors seek to portray a ‘Popular’ story, but because they seek to portray (and anatomize) a ‘Significant’ story out of the leaves of the concerned community’s or nation’s past. Some may even saw that the ‘Significant’ is synonymous to the ‘Popular’; but above all, the ‘Significant’ is that which had been canonized in mass memory, with such motives like unity, identity, pride, etc. The ‘Significant’ is the institutionalized and official ‘Real’ past of the group concerned; ideally it should have no alternative rival. And that is exactly what cinema does! It reconfigures and reconstructs the existing narration, ‘avoiding the pitfalls of subjectivity, the unspoken affinities and predilections that underpin the questions asked about the past’[62]. Its maker ‘is often interested in exploring the historical significance of testimony and the relevance of the recounted events to the contemporary world.’ The ambition of the film is ‘to reduce the gap between its representations and the literal realities of historical experience. To identify the mission of historical film with the obsession for the absolute fidelity of image and sound is enough to plunge the filmmaker/historian into a vertigo of representation. Considering film’s mimetic function in this literalist way has led sceptical historians to the easy accusation of anachronism: film’s very excess of representation is perforce a betrayal of historical truth’[63].

‘Rosenstone begins with an incisive paradox: “On the screen, history must be fictional in order to be true!” The key to the paradox is that cinematic literalism is unthinkable in the historical film: “Yes, film may show us the world, or the surface of part of the world, but it can never provide a literal rendition of events that took place in the past. Can never be an exact replica of what happened.” To be historical, a discourse of images must learn to approximate the abstractions of written history: “Film, with its need for a specific image, cannot make general statements about revolution or progress. Instead, film must summarize, synthesize, generalize, symbolize—in images’[64]. This ‘history’ is different from the history we study, which reserves a certain historical factuality, and associated morality. This history is fluid, symbolizing, subtle and not at all in agreement with the Dragnet School of History – “Only facts, Mam!” Before judging a film for its historicity or historical revisionism, we must remember that these are works of fiction embodying a socio-cultural, and almost post-modernist narrative. They verge into the society because they have to, not because they are willing to twist historical realities and humiliate a cultural honour. It puts exhaustive research into a limited number of frames for the viewers to relieve the past, and not attempt at extracting history lessons from it. After all, history is more than dusty papers of facts. It’s about inspiration.


[1] Distinction is made amongst the genres of period drama, historical film, epic film, biopic and documentary. The films examined in the paper are taken to be period creations because of their being pieces of historical fiction in multiple protagonists’ voices, dealing in a large number of thematic issues, both historical and contemporary.

[2] Rachel Dwyer, “The Biopic in Hindi Cinema” in Robert A. Rosenstone, and Constantine Parvulescu (eds.), A Companion to the Historical Film (UK: Wiley-Blackwell, 2013), 220.

[3] See Ibid., pp.219-220.

[4] Ibid., 221.

[5] Ibid., 228.

[6] Anarkali finds mention neither in Akbarnama nor in Tuzuk-I-Jahangiri; and her character occurs for the first time in the 1608 journal of William Finch, and subsequently Edward Terry, the English travellers to India. See Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopaedia, s.v. “Anarkali” (accessed March 11 2017) Anarkali makes appearances in Noor Ahmed Chishti’s 1860 book Tehqiqaat-i-Chishtia, Syed Abdul Lateef’s 1892 book Tareekh-i-Lahore, and Abdul Halim Sharar’s early 19th century novel Anar Kali. Works of fiction, they cast Anarkali as the legendary slave girl who had a scandalous liaison with the Mughal Crown Prince. A tomb existing in Lahore has the soulful inscriptions: “Could I behold the face of my beloved once more, I would thank God until the day of resurrection”, leading historians to conclude that it is her resting place. ‘Abdullah Chagatai, an 18th century historian and architect, opines that the tomb built in the centre of a pomegranate garden, contains the grave of Jahangir’s beloved wife, Sahib – I – Jamal. But with time, the lady’s name disappeared into oblivion and the tomb was christened by the people as the tomb of Anarkali on the basis of the surrounding pomegranate gardens. This garden finds mention in Dara Shikoh’s Sakinat-al-Auliya’, though he doesn’t name the entombed. See Aamir Butt, “Anarkali: Fact or Fiction?”, The Nation, March 18 2016,  The inscription had been signed off as “majnun Salim Akbar” with two dates: Hijra 1008 (1599-1600), and 1024 (1615-1616). The first date is interpreted to be the year of Anarkali’s entombment, and the second to be the year of building of the mausoleum. See V.S. Gopalakrishnan, “What is the Truth about Anarkali?”, Sulekha, 2010, It is interesting to note that for a Mughal Prince, as notorious a womanizer as Salim, having a liaison with a mere slave girl could have been a casual affair. Anarkali, if she existed at all, must have been a lady of noble and strategic position, enough for Akbar to put a stop to the affair or have Jahangir built a mazhar for her. A suggestion goes that Anarkali is one of the many Victorian constructs; a figure carved out of the meagre mentions in historical accounts and woven to play out as excessively tragic, mythical and enigmatic to cater to the Victorian fantasy. The above mentioned works of fiction might have later inspired the many plays and onscreen adaptation of the ‘Victorian’ lore.

[7] Legend has it that Anarkali was actually Akbar’s wife, and Prince Danyal’s mother. In this light, Salim was having an incestuous affair with his own step-mother. An angry Emperor, cuckolded by his own son, must have punished his ‘adulterous’ wife with death. This might have been one of the reasons behind the hushed remembrance of the ‘event’ to spare the imperial family its shame; or the ‘official conferment’ of the slave status to Anarkali (in contemporary ‘records’ or memory) to give the scandal a touch of societal morality.

[8]Anarkali. Film. Directed by Nandalal Jaswantlal. Bombay: Filmistan, 1953.

[9] Sumita Chakravarty, National Identity in Indian Popular Cinema, 1947-1987 (USA: University of Texas Press, 1993), 169.

[10] Anonymous, “Controversies Strike Bollywood Again with Jodhaa Akbar”, The Times of India, February 15 2008,

[11] Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopaedia, s.v. “Jodhaa Akbar” (accessed March 11 2017)

[12] Chakravarty, National Identity in Indian Popular Cinema, 225.

[13] Recent historical scholarship shows that Jodhaa Bai was not a Rajput princess. Rather she was a beautiful Portuguese captive named Dona Maria Mascarenhas, who was handed over to Akbar in matrimony, by Sultan Bahadur Shah of Gujrat. See Luis de Assis Correia, Portuguese India and Mughal Relations: 1510 – 1735 (Panaji: Broadway Publishing House, 2017).

[14] Jodhaa is a common Rajput name in 16th century India, and could have been the name of one of Akbar’s multiple wives. The mother of Jahangir is known by an ambiguous array of names: Harkha Bai, Hira Kunwar, Jiya Rani, Maanmati, and Shaahi Bai. See Jodhaa Akbar. Film. Directed by Ashutosh Gowarikar. India: UTV Motion Pictures, 2008.  However, the politics of celluloid representation brings her in the gamble of identity through identification. The incessant speculation over her identity is not as much about the lesser known Empress of India, as it is about the mother to the heir of Mughal Hindustan. The community whose daughter had given Akbar his much coveted heir assumes superlative worth in historical significance, for associated with her is their culture, and the claim of dominant cultural and political influence (on the concerned community’s part) in the Mughal world.

[15] Wikipedia, “Jodhaa Akbar”.

[16] Chakravarty, National Identity in Indian Popular Cinema, 170.

[17] Aarti Wani, Fantasy of Modernity (Delhi: Cambridge University Press, 2016), 161.

[18] Mughal-E-Azam. Film. Directed by K. Asif. India: Sterling Investment Corporation, 1960.

[19] Bajirao Mastani. Film. Directed by Sanjay L. Bansali. India: Eros International, 2015.

[20] The film also portrays the rare character of Humayun’s sister, Gulbadan; and gives insight into her life, political influence, and role in the greater ambit of Mughal History.

[21] Ibid.

[22] Express Web Desk, “Major Controversies that have hit ‘Bajirao Mastani’”, The Indian Express, December 16 2015,

[23] Anonymous, “Peshwa descendant objects to Ranveer Singh, Deepika Padukone, Priyanka Chopra’s ‘Bajirao Mastani’”, writes to CM”, The Indian Express, November 20 2015,

[24] Ibid.

[25] Dwyer, “The Biopic in Hindi Cinema”, 225.

[26] Elizabeth. Film. Directed by Shekhar Kapur. UK: Gramercy Pictures, 1998.

[27] Chakravarty, National Identity in Indian Popular Cinema, 166.

[28] Ibid.

[29] Poonam Trivedi, and Dennis Bartholomeusz (eds.), India’s Shakespeare: Translation, Interpretation, and Performance (Delhi: Pearson Education, 2006), 258.

[30] Ibid.

[31] Humayun. Film. Directed by Mehboob Khan. India: Mehboob Productions, 1945.

[32] Chakravarty, National Identity in Indian Popular Cinema, 169.

[33] Ibid.

[34] Dwyer, “The Biopic in Hindi Cinema”, 224.

[35] Jodhaa Akbar. Directed by Ashutosh Gowarikar.

[36] Dwyer, “The Biopic in Hindi Cinema”, pp.224-225.

[37] Jodhaa Akbar. Directed by Ashutosh Gowarikar.

[38] Supreme authority.

[39] Mughal-E-Azam. Directed by K. Asif.

[40] Anarkali. Directed by Nandalal Jaswantlal.

[41] Mughal-E-Azam. Directed by K. Asif.

[42] Akbar’s attempt at imposing almost ‘real politik’ authority over his son’s desperate rebellion to claim his love; makes them both protagonists of the lore, with Anarkali as the connecting thread. Akbar’s tendency can even be considered dictatorial, with Salim symbolizing democracy. His rebellion is now associated with ‘rebellion against oppressive authority, broad democratic sympathies, and freedom of choice’. See Chakravarty, National Identity in Indian Popular Cinema, 173.

[43] The Crown. TV Series. Created by Peter Morgan. UK: Netflix, 2016-Present.

[44] Mughal-E-Azam. Directed by K. Asif.

[45] Ibid.

[46] Taj Mahal. Film. Directed by M. Sadiq. India: Pushpa Pictures, 1963.

[47] Bajirao Mastani. Directed by Sanjay L. Bansali.

[48] Ibid.

[49] Ibid.

[50] Ibid.

[51] The film features dialogues like “Ajnabi mulk, ajnabi log”, and “Aaj yahan aakar aapne Bundelkhand ki najayaz beti ko sindoor jitna jayaz banadiya” effectively making Mastani the illegitimate, unwanted outsider to the Peshwai. Born of Rajput and Mughal parentage, she posed as an impure genealogical, religious, and cultural threat to the Hindu confederacy of the Marathas. Bajirao and his Peshwai are symbolic of the dual consciousness that takes hold of the mind during a cross-cultural exchange; the first being demonstrative of xenophilia, the second of xenophobia. The Maratha dash, and Bundelkhand appear as two separate identities in the absence of a national Hindustan identity, that is to emerge in the beginning of the era of the struggle for independence.

[52] Ibid.

[53] Dwyer, “The Biopic in Hindi Cinema”, 165.

[54] Taj Mahal. Directed by M. Sadiq.

[55] “Jurm-E-Ulfat Pe Lyrics and Translation: Let’s Learn Urdu – Hindi”, Mr. & Mrs. 55 – Classic Bollywood Revisited, January 29 2012,

[56] Ibid.

[57] “Khudaa-E-Barte Lyrics and Translation: Let’s Learn Urdu – Hindi”, Mr. & Mrs. 55 – Classic Bollywood Revisited, February 10 2012,

[58] Anton De Baets, “Censorship and History Since 1945” in Axel Schneider, and Daniel Woolf, The Oxford History of Historical Writing: 1945 to the Present (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011), 60.

[59] See Rachel Dwyer, Filming the Gods: Religion and Indian Cinema (New York: Routledge, 2006), pp. 97-131.

[60] A revisionist history stressing on communal harmony that cropped up in the Post-Independence Period; and closely aligned itself to J. Nehru’s view of communal interaction in India during the period. See Supriya Mukherjee, “Indian Historical Writing Since 1947” in Axel Schneider, and Daniel Woolf, The Oxford History of Historical Writing: 1945 to the Present (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011), pp. 515-538.

[61] See Anton De Baets, “Censorship and History Since 1945”, pp. 52-73.

[62] William Guynn, Writing History in Film (New York: Routledge, 2006), 134.

[63] Ibid., 141.

[64] Ibid., 142. See Robert A. Rosenstone, Visions of the Past: The Challenge of Film to our Idea of History (US: Harvard University Press, 1995).


Humayun. Film. Directed by Mehboob Khan. India: Mehboob Productions, 1945.

Anarkali. Film. Directed by Nandalal Jaswantlal. Bombay: Filmistan, 1953.

Mughal-E-Azam. Film. Directed by K. Asif. India: Sterling Investment Corporation, 1960.

Taj Mahal. Film. Directed by M. Sadiq. India: Pushpa Pictures, 1963.

Chakravarty, Sumita. National Identity in Indian Popular Cinema, 1947-1987. USA: University of Texas Press, 1993.

Rosenstone, Robert A.  Visions of the Past: The Challenge of Film to our Idea of History. US: Harvard University Press, 1995.

Elizabeth. Film. Directed by Shekhar Kapur. UK: Gramercy Pictures, 1998.

Trivedi, Poonam and Bartholomeusz, Dennis (eds.). India’s Shakespeare: Translation, Interpretation, and Performance. Delhi: Pearson Education, 2006.

Dwyer, Rachel. Filming the Gods: Religion and Indian Cinema. New York: Routledge, 2006.

Guynn, William. Writing History in Film. New York: Routledge, 2006.

Anonymous, “Controversies Strike Bollywood Again with Jodhaa Akbar”, The Times of India, February 15 2008,

Jodhaa Akbar. Film. Directed by Ashutosh Gowarikar. India: UTV Motion Pictures, 2008.

Gopalakrishnan, V.S. “What is the Truth about Anarkali?”, Sulekha, 2010,

De Baets, Anton. “Censorship and History Since 1945” in Schneider, Axel and Woolf, Daniel. The Oxford History of Historical Writing: 1945 to the Present. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011.

Mukherjee, Supriya. “Indian Historical Writing Since 1947” in Schneider, Axel and Woolf, Daniel. The Oxford History of Historical Writing: 1945 to the Present. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011.

“Jurm-E-Ulfat Pe Lyrics and Translation: Let’s Learn Urdu – Hindi”, Mr. & Mrs. 55 – Classic Bollywood Revisited, January 29 2012,

“Khudaa-E-Barte Lyrics and Translation: Let’s Learn Urdu – Hindi”, Mr. & Mrs. 55 – Classic Bollywood Revisited, February 10 2012,

Dwyer, Rachel. “The Biopic in Hindi Cinema” in Rosenstone, Robert A. and Parvulescu, Constantine (eds.). A Companion to the Historical Film. UK: Wiley-Blackwell, 2013.

Bajirao Mastani. Film. Directed by Sanjay L. Bansali. India: Eros International, 2015.

Express Web Desk, “Major Controversies that have hit ‘Bajirao Mastani’”, The Indian Express, December 16 2015,

Anonymous, “Peshwa descendant objects to Ranveer Singh, Deepika Padukone, Priyanka Chopra’s ‘Bajirao Mastani’”, writes to CM”, The Indian Express, November 20 2015,

Butt, Aamir. “Anarkali: Fact or Fiction?”, The Nation, March 18 2016,

Wani, Aarti. Fantasy of Modernity (Delhi: Cambridge University Press, 2016.

The Crown. TV Series. Created by Peter Morgan. UK: Netflix, 2016-Present.

Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopaedia, s.v. “Anarkali” (accessed March 11 2017)

Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopaedia, s.v. “Jodhaa Akbar” (accessed March 11 2017)

Correia, Luis de Assis. Portuguese India and Mughal Relations: 1510 – 1735. Panaji: Broadway Publishing House, 2017.


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