WION New Delhi, Delhi, India
Jan 22, 2018, 05.54 AM
Historians call her story a work of fiction, locals give her godly status and argue about her existence - whatever the case may be- there is no denying that the tale of Padmavati- Queen of Chittor- is perhaps a fascinating tale in Indian history.
A tale of sacrifice and strength, Padmavati’s story has for years been revered for showcasing true Rajput spirit. While it remains a matter of debate on whether she actually ever existed, authors, filmmakers, and artists have over the years given the popular folklore their own interpretation.
Author Sutapa Basu’s latest book Padmavati: The Queen Tells Her Own Story, as the title suggests tries to explore the fabled story from the queen’s perspective. Basu intertwines two periods into one story and the result is an intriguing tale of love, passion, bravery, honour and ultimate sacrifice.
The story begins in present day. The author very cleverly uses the ongoing controversy around Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s film Padmaavat in her narrative and has journalist Mrinalini Rao traveling to Chittorgarh fort to explore the truth behind the fabled Padmavati amid the protest around the film. Mrinalini meets a local there, Uma, who unravels that Padmavati’s story is best narrated in Padma wali - a memoir of sorts that Queen had written and which was known only to her close associates. The story then shifts to Singhaldweep, a nearly perfect kingdom of which Padmavati is a princess.
Basu’s historical saga keeps going back and forth – keeping the readers intrigued throughout. Much like Mrinalini, the reader intently waits for the story to unfold.
Writing about a bygone era is never easy. You have very few references to fall back to. But the writer manages to create the perfect ambiance of that era with her vivid description of the almost perfect Singhaldweep and the rather conservative Mewar kingdom as you find yourself transported to a regal era.
Basu also believes in detailing and takes time, with her words, to unfold the story. Basu’s interpretation of Padmavati is rather contemporary as she makes the Queen loyal to her husband and her people but also rather arrogant and proud of having a mind of her own. Padmavati’s thinking and her practicality almost makes her appear like a modern-day woman, or as Uma says to Mrinalini at one point- ahead of her times. It is this particular reason that makes the story so much more fascinating for the readers.
At its core is a known historical saga but the treatment that writer gives, keeps you hooked. By the time you reach the last few chapters, the tension is palpable and you just cannot put the book down even though you know how Padmavati's story ends.
The origins of Padmavati's actual existence may be a matter of debate but the book still makes for a compelling read because Basu celebrates Padmavati's fiery spirit and her courage in this engaging tale of love and sacrifice.