Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Padmavati, based on an epic poem of a queen who chooses to self-immolate to avoid being captured by an invader, has never claimed to be factual. But it is being held up to unbelievable standards. It’s being criticised for not being a good representation of Rajputs, of Rani Padmavati, of the ‘honour’ of Rajput women, and so on.
When Padmavati’s sets were attacked during the making, the Shree Rajput Karni Sena said Bhansali was distorting ‘historical facts’. They were upset because “In no books was it said that Alauddin Khilji was in love with Padmavati or was her lover”.
They physically assaulted Bhansali and destroyed some equipment. Presumably shocked by this violence (and perhaps by the fact that Shree Rajput Karni Sena members read books). Bhansali clarified that there was no romantic sequence, dream or otherwise, between Padmavati and Alauddin.
We all know that a movie where a woman dies a horrific death and a Muslim man doesn’t get what he wants is a bhakt’s wet dream.
The trailer for this film was made to please the bhakt audience. It had a villainous Allauddin Khilji who savagely eats meat with his hands, wears black fur and lusts for a Rajput queen. We all knew that the Rajput queen was going to commit Jauhar in the end, to preserve her caste “honour”. We all know that a movie where a woman dies a horrific death and a Muslim man doesn’t get what he wants is a bhakt’s wet dream.
All this was in vain though, because the song Ghoomar offended even more people. A Rajput queen would never dance, some people said. Where were these people when King Asoka was grinding with his lover in his dreams and reality?
And now, a fringe group and Haryana BJP’s media coordinator are having an epic bromance in demanding Deepika Padukone’s burnt body, or the severed heads of Deepika and Bhansali. They have also demanded Ranveer Singh’s legs to be chopped off (Shahid Kapoor is in the movie too, but god forbid they speak against a Rajput king). Vasundhara Raje too jumped in to stop this film from releasing, so that she can protect the most vulnerable in her state: the privileged upper caste Hindu men.
Padmavati must not sing and dance. Padmavati must neither dream of, nor occur in dreams of a Muslim person. Padmavati must carry the insecurities of casteist and patriarchal fringe outfits and call it her ‘honour’. She is important only because she burns for her Hindu (upper caste, obviously!) husband.
She is important only because she burns for her Hindu (upper caste, obviously!) husband.
The actress who plays her must also ‘know the pain of being burnt alive’. It’s not easy being a woman in India, but it’s even harder to be a deceased medieval queen who may or may not have existed.
If it weren’t for these massive hissy fits, maybe we would be discussing why Sanjay Leela Bhansali felt the need to glorify and glamourize a horrifyingly patriarchal, casteist and Islamophobic story from history. Maybe we would be discussing why filmmakers continue to make movies only about the sex lives of historical figures when we have such a complex past with intriguing personalities at our disposal.
Maybe we would talk about how history is a mere aesthetic tool or a period fashion opportunity against the backdrop of recycled, Savarna-exclusive, love stories. But for now, we must defend those involved in the making of the film. Because the world cannot revolve around fragile egos and hurt sentiments.
Featured Image Credit: Udaipur Times