The much hyped “Padmavat” was finally released after its strategic rechristening over the republic day long weekend. The hype was so intense that other big banner movies – Padman and Aiyaary pushed their release dates. I tried hard to get tickets and with much difficulty managed to find 2 tickets! I am based in Chennai and when my friend and I ventured out to watch this movie, we didn’t feel as brave as our friends in Delhi who courageously went to watch it despite the ruckus created by fringe elements.
I failed to comprehend the reason for the controversies surrounding the movie. Different people may attribute several motives. Was it political though I don’t understand to what end? Was it a marketing strategy to draw more people to the theatre? Did the 70 shots edited from the movie make any difference? I could tell that Deepika’s midriff was covered in the “ghoomar” song but distinctly visible in the rest of the movie. And I think Ranvir’s dream sequence romancing Deepika was deleted completely. I doubt this was Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s (SLB) best directorial venture considering his other highly acclaimed movies like Khamoshi, Black, Hum dil de chuke sanam and most recently Bajirao Mastani. There were parts where the double entendre left you intrigued and the grisly beheadings made you look away. There were failed attempts at flirtation but no chemistry between those characters. The sets were larger than life with grand clothes and accessories true to SLB’s style. But, while his heart was visible, the script lacked his soul. The story is therefore predictable.
The climax flummoxed me. I cringed at the sight of women in red saris willing to sacrifice themselves on fire and felt a death on the battlefield may have been a more honourable alternative. Deepika’s speech to inspire other women to follow her in the act of jauhar, was meant to be motivational but instead depicted a lack of respect towards life granted to us.
I am still wondering what was being protested against? The film glorifies Rajputs and shows them as ethical, brave and “good” people. On the contrary, the Muslim rulers like Khilji are portrayed as ruthless and villainous so much so that I am surprised Islamic groups are not up in arms against the movie.
I recognize the film is a period drama and there is no need to overreact. But I still question SLB whether he is doing a service to the nation by using films- a powerful medium in our country- to glorify acts like jauhar and display them in this grandeur. These are regressive themes that remind us of a past that we need to unshackle from. This is at odds with all action towards female empowerment, gender diversity, inclusiveness and respect for women. At a time when our newspapers still contain daily horrors of rapes, honour killing, female foeticide and domestic abuse shouldn’t our intelligentsia be trying to profile this injustice and help shape a better mind-set towards women? Shouldn’t women themselves be educated about the importance of their being and how precious their lives are? Paradoxically, we worship various forms of the Goddess but disrespect mortal women. I strongly feel we should be spreading a positive message on what women are capable of, how they can meet any challenge, how they are a nurturing force in the world and what they should do to defend their rights.
While one can argue that Bollywood neither determines nor impacts social agendas and one film is not going to make any difference, it does influence a large cross section of society. Hence, there is the need to be conscientious about the messages being conveyed through this medium. In that I would stick my neck out and say the director is as misguided as the people who are protesting against the movie.
Let us step forward to consign feudal mind-sets to the sacrificial fire and be reborn to respect and protect women and their rights.
Momspresso is attempting to create a new wave of #MoreToMe, while movies like these set us back. Women have their own identity. They can be a wife, mother, daughter, sister but above all they are women who need to stand up for themselves irrespective of which age they live in.
If you have watched the movie and have an opinion on it, whether similar to or different from mine, I would love to hear it in comments below.
This article was first published on Momspresso (erstwhile mycity4kids).