In the first major announcement of a film about Kashmir post the abrogation of Article 370, Phantom Films’ Madhu Mantena and Reliance Entertainment jointly revealed on Twitter on Tuesday morning that they will be producing a film on Kota Rani, the last Hindu queen of Kashmir.
— Phantom Films (@FuhSePhantom) August 27, 2019
Ever since Article 370 was abrogated, there have been speculations about films that might get made in Bollywood about the valley. A Quint report dated August 7 quoted a source close to the Indian Motion Pictures’ Producers’ Association (IMPPA) as saying that around 30 producers had approached the body to register the title Article 370 and Article 35A. Other titles on demand include Kashmir Hamara Hai and the literal translation of Article 370 and 35A in Hindi – Dhara 370 and Dhara 35A.
Kota Rani, one of the few women rulers of the region, belonged to Kashmir’s Lahora dynasty. She ascended the throne in 1338 and died a year later. A section of historians says she was murdered by foreign invaders, while another says she committed suicide after one of her ministers, Shah Mir, killed her prime minister and tried to imprison her. Madhu Mantena, founder-partner of Phantom Films, in a press release, compared Kota Rani to Cleopatra, and said that she was perhaps one of the most able female rulers that India produced.
It is ironical that a film about a female ruler is being made by Phantom and Reliance Entertainment, the joint-production banner that was embroiled in one of the most controversial #MeToo cases in the Indian film industry. Founded in 2012 by a group of filmmakers, including Anurag Kashyap and Vikramaditya Motwane, Phantom Films became an arm of Reliance Entertainment in 2015 with 50% of the company’s stakes bought by the latter. In October, 2018, Phantom members announced the end of their partnership; this was said to be largely triggered by the allegation of sexual harassment and assault against one of the members, director Vikas Bahl. A Huffpost report that followed the announcement cited the same reason. The piece, written by journalist Ankur Pathak, carried statements by the survivor who spoke about how Bahl assaulted her in 2015 during the promotional events for Bombay Velvet. In response, Anurag Kashyap released a long statement on Twitter, in which apologised to the woman in question.
However, Madhu Mantena had said that the company would continue to work exclusively with Reliance Entertainment. Vikas Bahl was removed from the credits of Super 30, co-produced by Reliance, and starring Hrithik Roshan, after the issue broke out. However, in June 2019, an internal inquiry by Reliance Entertainment cleared Bahl of the harassment charges. An India Today report quoted Shibasish Sarkar, Group CEO, Reliance Entertainment, as saying, “Yes, it is true that the Internal Complaints Committee report has exonerated Vikas Bahl. With ICC clearing Vikas Bahl’s name, we don’t have a choice but to reinstate his credit as director of Super 30.”
Feature image credit: IMdb