1000 Years After Death, Bollywood Gets Kashmir Queen Into Controversy

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SRINAGAR:  Kashmir queen died in 1003 and more than a thousand years later, she has landed in a controversy, thanks to Bollywood. A producer with controversial actress, Kanga Ranaut announced they will be making Manikarnika Returns: The Legend of Didda on the life of the queen who literally established the Lohara rule in Kashmir by transferring power to her brother and not the son.

Ashish Kaul presenting a copy of his book on Kashmir queen to Amitabh Bachan in January 2020. Pic: Author’s FB

Days later, a Kashmiri novelist said the actress has stolen her story. Now, Ashish Kaul, the author of Didda: Kashmir Ki Yoddha Rani (published 2017) has sent the actress notices to protect his intellectual rights. What is more interesting, Kaul and Ranaut knew each other and the author had sent her the review of his book publicly in September 2020.

Ranaut had done Manikarnika: The Queen of Jhansi in 2019. With a script of a new queen in hand, she wanted to do a new film on a subject that would get a better audience, improved returns because of Kashmir. – one of Bollywood’s best money-minting subjects.

Stolen Script?

Kangna has issued a statement that her film will not be based on the Kaul’s book. But the crisis is that there is nothing much available about the lame queen who even killer her own family members to retain power.

“Our Client was further appalled to discover that the nature and treatment of the character of Didda in the Proposed Film, was identical to the Narrative Text, the Book and the information communicated by Our Client in his e-mail of 11 September 2020. To add further insult to injury, Kangana Ranaut and Kamal Kumar Jain have since issued public statements alleging that their proposed Film is not based on the Book. It is re-iterated that the description of Didda as identified by Kangana Ranaut to promote the Film is identical to as set out in the Book,” the notice issued by Kaul to the actress reads. “On account of such false denunciations, Our Client has been trolled and abused by the fans of Kangana Ranaut on Twitter and has suffered extreme mental anguish. It is unfortunate that Our Client, an established and published author and one of the few leading authorities on Didda in the world, is being needlessly harassed due to the actions of Ms Kangana Ranaut and Kamal Kumar Jain. Our Client further risks financial losses as he has been in conversation with major producers and studios for the production of a film based on the book and the script, which has been registered since 2017. The actions and representations of Ms Kangana Ranaut, Mr Kamal Kumar and Ms Rangoli Ranaut will severely impact all opportunities of commercial exploitation of the Narrative Text, the Book, and the Script by Kaul.”

Kangna Ranaut with producer Kamal Jain in a meeting in January 2021 after which they announced the film on Kashmir queen.

Kaul claimed he is in talks with Zeeshan Ahmed of 70mm Talkies for the film adaptation of his book. He has said that he had asked her if she would be associated with the book for foreword. “But we didn’t receive any reply from her,” Kaul was quoted saying. “Whatever she is saying about the story is available only in my book only. She could have asked me if she wants to do a film based on my book but she didn’t approach me.”

Fake Narrative

In the Ranaut claims is an emphasis on one thing that the “warrior” queen fought and defeated Mehmood Ghaznavi twice. It is hugely incorrect. Gaznavi came to Poonch, her home town, almost nine years after her death. He did not enter Kashmir because of weather reasons. The queen was beautiful and had polio in one leg.

Kaul claimed that he had approached Ranaut to write a foreword for the Hindi version of the book in September last year.

Who Was Didda?

The main source about the lame queen is the Rajatarangini of Kalhamna Pandit. Didda, he has recorded, was the ruler of Kashmir from 980 to 1003 AD. In contrast to other queens, Kalhana portrays Didda as a ruthless, Machiavellian, power-hungry queen. According to Kalhana, Didda was the daughter of Simharaja, of the Lohara dynasty (1003 CE – 1320 CE).

According to Kalhana, Didda had such a big influence on her husband that he ‘became known by the humiliating the appellation of Didda-Kshema’ or ‘henpecked’. Over the years Kalhana claims that Queen Didda became so ruthless that she even murdered her own grandchildren!

Bollywood actress Kangna Ranaut

In the Rajataringini, Kalhana claims that she murdered her three grandsons, Nandigupta, Tribhuvana, and Bhimagupta in quick succession between 975 to 981CE so that she should keep the throne herself. Another damaging accusation made against her by the chronicler is that she took a handsome shepherd named Tunga as a lover and raised him to the position of the Chief Minister of the kingdom.

Describing Mahmud Ghaznavi’s expedition to Kashmir, the Sultan’s advances to the mountainous region were barred by the fort of Lohar Kot which was remarkable on account of its height and strength. After a while when the snow began to fall and the season became intensely cold and the enemy received reinforcements from Kashmir, the Sultan was obliged to abandon his design and return to Ghazni.

Queen Didda died in 1003 CE at the age of 79, after ruling in her own right for 22 years while as Mahmud of Ghaznavi according to historical chronicles invaded Kashmir in two unsuccessful attempts in 1015 and 1021 AD.

But the film will eventually be made once the dust settles and everybody gets the pie from the project. The film with the skewed narrative is vital for political reasons. It has Gaznavi, Didda, and Kashmir. Its worth is more than the money it can earn ahead of the next general election.

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About Author

A Mass Communication and Journalism postgraduate from the University of Kashmir, Khalid is a writer by choice and a journalist by chance.

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