New Delhi: Actor Ajay Devgn says his latest film "Tanhaji: The Unsung Warrior" does not show any religion in bad light and is about defending the country from foreign invaders.
The Om Raut-directed movie, set in the 17th century, is based on the life of Tanhaji Malusare, the military leader of Maratha king Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj's army.
Tanhaji played an instrumental role in taking back the strategic hill fortress of Kondhana from the Mughal empire.
The film's trailer had raised some eyebrows after Devgn, as Tanhaji, is seen propagating the power of saffron.
Ajay, however, said the film does not portray any religion in negative.
"We are talking about the country. We are talking about freedom. There is no 'Hindutva'. It is about your nation, your country. In the movie, you will see that there are Muslim warriors who are fighting alongside Tanhaji. We are not fighting for religion. When we talk about country, then there is no religion," Ajay told PTI in an interview.
When asked about the portrayal of Muslim rulers in films such as "Padmaavat" and most recently "Panipat", the actor said the characterizations were based on historical facts.
"Alauddin Khalji (from 'Padmaavat') was barbaric according to history. Not because he was from a certain religion that he was barbaric, he was a barbaric man.
"Let's take any film about British rule. When we travel outside, do we feel like hurting British people? It was wrong for them to rule us but that story is over now. It is, however, part of the history. So are history books wrong? Are history books talking against Christianity? They are not," Ajay said.
The actor further said the film's core theme is about safeguarding the nation from foreigners.
"We are talking about invaders and outsiders in our country at that point of time. People have become one now. It is one country now for everybody. Even before, invaders and outsiders, the country never had just one religion. Everybody was living in peace and harmony. There are names in history of people who fought against their own," Ajay added.
Director Om Raut also defended the film, saying the film is not against any religion.
"Is it any attempt towards saffronisation? 100 per cent no. It was the colour that was there for the fort and Shivaji's army and that is where it is. Chhatrapati Shivaji did not believe in any religion. He had people of all religions -- hindus and non-hindus -- in his army. In his artillery department, there was a 'topchi' who was Noor Khan Baig. There were so many non-Hindus who worked under Shivaji."
The director further said "the war, the struggle and the tension" of the 17th century were not related to any faith in any way.
"It was religion neutral. People happened to be on this side or both side. There were invaders and the war was against them. The Swaraj movement was against the invaders. The people of this land, no matter which religion they belonged to, they fought against the foreign invasion. It was the situation of that time."
The trailer also branded the movie as a story about Maratha empire's "surgical strike" on the Mughals also drew criticism. Surgical strike as a term became popular after the Indian Army struck terror launchpads in Pakistan in the aftermath of Uri attack in 2016, an incident that inspired a mainstream movie.
The director, however, said the term of guerrilla warfare has come to be known as surgical strikes today and therefore it is easy to explain the movie's story to the youth through the phrase.
"It is simpler to understand. If I had said guerrilla activity, nobody would have understand. Maybe some would have understood it. A trailer is an advertisement. If I speak in Marathi or French, will you understand it? No.
"I have to speak your language which is English. It is common to everyone. I say surgical strike, youngsters understand it immediately. They know what it is. If I had said 'ganimi kava', which is the scientific name for it, nobody would have understood," Raut said.
"Tanhaji: The Unsung Hero", which also features Saif Ali Khan and Kajol, is scheduled to be released on January 10.
- By Ravi Bansal