CultureCinema Padmavati: Attempts to Control A (Fake) Historical Woman

Padmavati: Attempts to Control A (Fake) Historical Woman

Padmavati must carry the insecurities of patriarchal and casteist fringe outfits and call it her 'honour'.

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.

Also Read: The Angry Hindu Nationalist And The Melancholia Of Lost Masculinity

Featured Image Credit: Udaipur Times


  1. Karthika says:

    Thank you for this article. I am just appalled to see the level at which Padmavati is treated as a “courageous” icon for committing Jauhar which was expected from all women whose palace is invaded so that they could avoid rape. I believe that Deepika, who identifies herself as a feminist, is rather a hypocrite for doing this film and for saying that “it is a story about a “courageous” woman which needs to be told today” A.K.A at a time when women are coming forward one by one which their stories of sexual harassment. Padmavati is lauded as courageous for committing suicide to avoid rape.

    She is a victim of war, patriarchy and above all, oppression. Rather than calling out Khilji’s sadistic lust and Savarnna’s code of putting women in the box. We should be feeling sorry for her and she could be a symbol that should be used while speaking against war and patriarchy.

    People say “13 reasons why” glorified suicide, but we know that Padmavati got that job done before itself.

  2. Prahi Rajput says:

    Also, nobody talks about why “rape” is worse than death. A woman’s honour lies between her legs. Nobody will even discuss the first wife of this Rajput King.

  3. Prahi Rajput says:

    I meant rape, not “rape.”

  4. Abhijit says:

    substract the violent karni sena… … Hold the event under a probe… … Lakhs, crores citizens of this civilised nation pull a leaf from our glorious past ,heritage and triumph in their respective goals… Being a doctor, engineer, armed force personnel, business tycoon, a preist, a philanthropist, a musician in short all from all walk, walk a good life… Suddenly a film maker picks one of the leaf, crumples and abuses it… Others referring to other leaves from past ideally should not mock but they do so… Act as though they are from different universe… While they hold their piece of religious history, close to their chest, they mischievously ridicule the leaf that is tampered… …. Padmavati is not real some rant… Ok? So? Did your gods existed, do you have proof? Dont we all hang on to stories, epics and books… ….nobody knows if the items of your faith existed… Ok to come back to topic… This film maker who is notorious for his twisted treatment to indian historical icons.. Promises in writing to few members whose sentiments he hurt that he will show them the film before its release… …the bugger keeps playing with sentiments of a large section of this democratic nation.. Clearly disrespecting others of whose hurt sentiments he is responsible… He starts the process, completes the film, sends for censor submission, shows to friends, family… But this crooked minded bugger stays adamant playing further with sentiments of rajputs…. And kshatriyas in general… No wonder that aggravates the section further… …. All mischief is on part of this SLB, but the left think tanks are at their game again… Beating the rajputs, who are the actual victims…. … Why do you blame the rajputs… Do you allow such excession in your own life….. Its plain simple… Bollywood is funded by dawood… And ppl like SLB dont think for the indian heritage, indian rightitude… We saw it in pk… We hv seen wht happens to temptations of christ, passion of christ, we very well know what is charlie hebdo, how punjab burnt when the saintly icon was wrongly depicted… So i need not write much… You will get to see it soon…… keeps happenning, only that hindu sentiments are not heeded, and you ppl interested in LGBT suffer from amnesia… I will sure remind you of wet dreams et al v soon when one of your leaf from closet of your chest is twisted.. … So for gods sake stay unbiased… You too hv 2 mud feet…. Dont act like u r the queen landed from heaven… U too hv icons of faith and worship… And lets see where all you fume from when someone hits you where it hurts… Thankyou

  5. Jane Doe says:

    Hi, Athough I agree that the whole controversy around Padmvati movie is regressive, I don’t think the story is Islamaphobic, it was written by a Muslim poet and just cause it potrays one Islamic king as the bad guy, it would be silly to conculde that all of them are bad ! And even though Padmini herself may have been fictional, Khilji’s invasion did lead to jauhar as an historical event. And jauhar has little to do with rape. Even the remaining men commited sucide.
    It was just times of war, and the times were brutal. Nobody wanted to be prisoner of war or spoils of war. Their freedom would be taken away and they would be subjected to rape, abuse and other degradation. Even during world war 2, many soldiers carried cyanide pills with them to avoid such fate. Honor sucide is also found in Japanese history, called “Seppuku”. Recently it was in news that a girl who was captured as a sex slave for ISIS burnt herself just so the ISIS would find her repulsive and stop raping her. Its a very sad story, she was released as a result and is still alive. You can read about it.
    So even though many people think Padmavati’s story is about being “pure”, its not. Being “pure” is rubbish concept which needs to die. But this story is of war, and being captured by enemy and living as their slave for rest of her life, is far worse then anyone can imagine.

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