Few films have faced the level of polarization and backlash in recent times as Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s mythological/historical period drama, and the media coverage of Padmaavat speaks volumes of the event it turned into.
Research and data around the media coverage of Padmaavat indicates that a staggering number of stories and news articles were published around Padmaavat between 1st January 2018 to 31st January 2018. Within the span of 31 days, the media coverage of Padmaavat exploded with as many as 36,000 news articles being published about the film’s release.
India, of course led the way with close to 22643 stories being published about the controversial motion picture, with the United States of America following in second place with 13541 news articles. The United Kingdom came in third with a fairly low share of reporting of the controversy with 377 news articles around the film.
Meltwater’s Area Director for Middle East and India, Christo van Wyk had said, “The online response to Padmaavat, both across social and news media, has been matched by very few events in recent memory. As a firm dedicated to monitoring and analysing trends online, we were convinced the Indian and International public would be interested in delving a bit deeper into what was being said about the film. Meltwater scans over 4 million editorial articles and over a billion social media posts across multiple social media channels every day - making us the largest online media intelligence provider in the world. This analysis has gone on to show the far-reaching impact the film has had, and moreover, uncovered the peripheral conversations sparked by the film.” - Christo van Wyk, Area Director, India & Middle East, Meltwater Group."
Around 40% of the news articles reporting the Padmaavat controversy were negative in their tone and nature, which was a result of the acts of vandalism, death threats, and many other violent incidents reportedly undertaken to protest the release of the film.
Neutral tonality was observed in 42% of the news stories, whereas positive reporting stayed limited to 18%, majority of the latter being attributed to actor Ranveer Singh’s performance in the film. Additionally, reports of an Indian family in the San Francisco Bay Area that allegedly booked an entire theatre to watch the film while dressed in Padmavati-like attire also saw a positive and pervasive response from the media.
Mentions and media coverage of Padmaavat witnessed a spike on the days leading up to the release of the film as you can see in the graph below.
Moreover, the discussion around Padmaavat on social media platforms gained tremendous momentum, peaking at more than 350,000 mentions of the film in the month of January.
An open letter penned by actress Swara Bhaskar, expressing her opinion on the film, as well as a response to the letter by award-winning Deepika Padukone, saw significant public commentary across social channels. In addition to this, conversations around the organisation Karni Sena and their protest of Padmaavat’s release were the topics of far-reaching debate.