Padmavati - Once Upon A Lit AF Time! - ColoKyal
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Padmavati - Once Upon A Lit AF Time!

Padmavati – Once Upon A Lit AF Time!

Padmavati - Once Upon A Lit AF Time!

So here’s the thing, I thought Padmavati was real as a child until I realised otherwise as an adult; until I was made to research it all over again, because of the controversy that engulfed my universe once the trailer of Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Padmavati was launched earlier in October this year.

Instead of worrying about India being the global leader in deaths due to pollution or the current FRDI bill, my newsfeed exploded into a battleground, where a civil war raged between liberals and amateur historians. It spun like a rolodex with status messages screaming ‘protect our creative rights!’ to ‘how dare you taint the Indian woman!’ and in some cases quite literally, ‘hail the Sati Savitri.’ Even the BBC got in on it. I ignored it all of course until the head of the Karni Sena began to scream, ‘off with her head!’. The Alice in me could not ignore such a gauntlet and down the rabbit hole of Rajput history I went.

***

Like almost every other Indian I know, I was taught history by my grandmother, and Amar Chitra Katha. So while my ten year old brain might have questioned the biological implications of attaching an elephant head to the body of a young child, every other story I heard was set in factual stone, be it Birbal the wise – easily one of ACK’s best, or Rani of Jhansi- a personal favourite. My summer reading also included ‘Padmini- A Tale Of Love And Valour’, the cover of which shows a stunning royal beauty walking with a plate of flowers into a fire, followed by her handmaidens. There was no reason to doubt a madman would fall in love with a queen after one glimpse of her beauty through a mirror, or that thousands of women would burn themselves for the sake of their honour. Women have been fed this subservient cr@p since time immemorial; we are, after all, born of the rib of Adam, and like a Horcrux, our meaning ceases to exist if our vessel is destroyed.

But of course, she, Padmavati, isn’t real. This version of her at least, because there could have well been a woman called Padmini who was indeed of Sri Lankan descent, who married into a Rajput family, based on Jayasi’s poem Padmavat, which even invented a king (Raja Ratansen never even existed). The Rajputs loved the poem – it massaged their egos (read this incredibly funny opinion piece by Anuja Chauhan, and a more insightful one on Scroll.in) and centuries later, Rajput children went to bed being told how all women should be like the great queen Rani Padmini. Then a wannabe, British historian, James Tod, comes along and decides it’s all real by appropriating the legend, and creating his own version of it in his ‘Annals And Antiquities Of Rajas’han’; which of course he did.

Sanjay Leela Bhansali, he of the Bajirao Mastani fame where historical distortions were ignored because it massaged Marathi pride, has clarified, that the movie is based on the poem, even though the dream sequence which is causing much of the furore never took place in the poem. But that’s ok. If Pride and Prejudice can include vampires, we should have no issues with a dream sequence.

The question we should be asking is this – should we be making movies on something that glorifies this idea of honour in the first place? Should we be idealising this Rajput woman who prefers death to violation at the hands of a Muslim? Should we be telling our young girls that Sati is beautiful and honourable?

Devdutt Pattnaik, our go-to source for everything mythological certainly doesn’t think so, and neither do I. How about a big budget Bollywood movie on Kittur Chennamma, who was one of the first Indian female rulers to lead an armed rebellion against the British? If we must take creative liberties, let us have a version of Padmavati where she learns an Indian martial art, takes up arms and takes back the fort, or becomes a shrewd diplomat and talks her way out of losing her kingdom.

You’ve already invited Jack Sparrow in lieu of Khilji anyway, now how about throwing in some real female pride?


Media for this piece is courtesy of Harshita Borah

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