Was The Fuss Justified Over The Release Of ‘Padmavat’?

Ever since its shooting, this Bollywood movie has been amidst the news for mainly the wrong reasons. Religious sentiments were hurt apparently during its conceptualization and some went to the extent of rebelling. So, for the people who tried to rationalize this outburst from afar, was the fuss justified?

Before we discuss the historical aspect of the movie and whether or not it glorified certain traditions that have no place in today’s context, we cannot take credit away from the stellar performances put in by Ranveer Singh (as Alauddin Khilji), Shahid Kapoor (as Raja Ratan Singh) and Deepika Padukone (as Rani Padmavati), although criticism can be directed towards the director for giving Shahid a meagre screentime. One could feel the violence and dynamism that Ranveer brought to the screen, living every moment as cautiously as the enemies. The grandeur of the sets, the elaborate ornamentation in the dresses and the exuberance in terms of magnitude were on full display as can be expected from a Bhansali film. In terms of a fictional movie, it was a movie that would leave its viewers in sheer awe.

However, here is where the fault lies- the script was based on a poem that has been passed on from generations and describes the struggles of the Rajputs against the Khiljis, in the famous war at Chittor. If the director wished to base the script totally on the folklore, it would have been a historical documentary with no room for artistic creativity which would make the movie dramatic; and if he wished otherwise, religious sentiments would be hurt if the movie would loosely revolve around the revered queen with a blend of intellectual freedom. This predicament of balancing historical integrity and intellectual freedom is exactly where the movie found itself, neither doing justice to either.

All the protests initially started with the incorrect portrayal of the Rajasthani traditions- the women not being allowed to reveal their faces from under their ‘ghoongats’, something the director felt in his discretion to portray differently. Later, the protests shifted towards the ending of the movie which supposedly glorified the ill-tradition of ‘Jauhar’, many believing that the same has no place in the modern context and that the right way to portray the end was to depict the Rajput women up in arms against the ruthless Khiljis when they entered the pristine forts of Chittor. If my opinion mattered, then I would absolutely be in favor of the notion of our women standing up for their rights and virtues, but then again, if I were to try and imagine myself in the same scenario, I am in no position to make an informed decision because the brevity of the situation is something that I couldn’t possibly ever fathom. As for glorifying the tradition, I simply believe that the director has stuck to what the folklore said about the whole incident and that changing that would lead to more protests, the accusation being that of the distortion of history.

Some sections of the public claimed to have found the movie demeaning the culture of the Rajputs and placing the Khiljis in better stead than their counterparts, stirring up various religious sentiments on an already sensitive topic in the country. These assumptions were made based on the trailers of the movie and had no basis for their justification. In hindsight, I believe that if viewed with a neutral mindset, there is no demeaning of either society, rather both are shown at their graceful best- the Khiljis depicting strength, valour and sheer determination in terms of their conquests and the  Rajputs displaying their honour, agility, and sinew on the warfront. Considerable technological advancements in terms of weaponry (development of the sling technology), architecture (prevalent in the construction of the unassailable forts) and even culture (being rich in the festivities). Thus, all in all, in no way does the movie undermine any section of society, be it in the past or the present.

To sum things up, the movie was a refreshing reminder of the historical past of the rich culture that the Indian subcontinent has witnessed over the past centuries- whether they are deemed as good or evil. The truth of the matter is that they were prevalent during those periods and their credibility should only be restrained to that period of time. Women in no way are depicted as inferior and portray tremendous courage when they join forces in order to defeat the Khiljis (a moral victory according to them), the only explanation for the same being that preservation of their integrity was a more honourable thing than being captured by the enemy, the reason for their actions. Thus, the concept should in no way be extended to the modern world in which its meaning has been diluted and twisted to forms which are baseless and thus should be restricted to their respective time frames.

What are your views on the same? Feel free to reach out and voice your opinion. 

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