Opinion: Why the woman in you should be offended by Padmaavat

Written By: Srimoyee Pandit
Noida, Uttar Pradesh, India Updated: Jan 30, 2018, 12:26 PM(IST)

Sanjay Leela Bhansali's Padmaavat is based on Jayasi's poem by the same name. Photograph:( India.com )

I never form opinions unless I have lived an experience. I don't judge a book before I have read it, a dish before I have tasted it, a road before I have taken it or a movie before I have watched it. Therefore, I did watch Padmaavat.

Of course, I was completely prepared to be let down by the storytelling, use of logic, the VFX (something that is extremely important in movies such as these), the regressive ideologies, homophobia, Islamophobia and so much more... but I decided to go anyway. Blame it on hype!

So, there I was watching this great masterpiece of cinema and with every passing shot wishing that the woman in me can sit through these 3 long hours of humiliation. Why do I feel humiliated, you may ask... in response I ask the woman in you to imagine few situations.

Imagine, your father has gifted something priceless to your husband, who very callously gives it away to someone. What exactly will you feel about this? Trust me, you will be very mad. You are going to ask him to go find a replacement after giving him an earful (even if you are the kindest and the most giving wife). That is exactly what the king's first wife did.

Now, imagine this, you send your husband to get something from the market and he comes back home with a new wife...I know peeps polygamy is not legal. Also, these days everything is really a click away and most of our stuff get home-delivered. But just imagine this anyway. You will be shattered, right? Broken? You will feel humiliated and insulted.

That is exactly how you are supposed to feel. Our director does not seem to agree though. 

He has inserted a dream sequence to introduce us to the king's first wife. And boy, what an introduction that was. Every valid response of this queen was turned against her to establish her as a greedy, mercenary woman who holds pearls dearer than her husband! The fact that those very pearls were a gift from her father and that the king had chosen to give them away as rewards when he could really have given away any other treasure, does not count you see.

While watching the movie, I felt that the dream shot was included because the director wanted (by all means) to justify the king's roving eyes and eventually his falling in love with another woman while he was out there to get back something priceless that he had so callously given away in the first place.

Did you notice by the way the complexion and the features of the king's first wife? For those who noticed, I will not have to explain. But for those who did not let me tell you, she was a woman of dark complexion and when compared to the Lankan princess, not so sharp features. So, when the king saw such 'beauty' in the forests of Lanka, he obviously lost all his good sense and by his own admission started following (stalk actually) her. 

WOW! I did not know how his first wife looked (if at all she existed that is) but going by the casting it seems the director tried to say that it is okay for a man to pursue another woman if his wife/partner does not match proverbial beauty standards.

 Greedy, bad looking women completely deserve this, no? Being portrayed as a cause of a man’s misconduct? Being subjected to humiliation?

 It would be more appealing to me as a moviegoer if the director could have established the other queen as an equally upright lady and not questioned her reasons for reacting in a manner she chose to act in. Or, if that would not be shown as a nightmare that led the king to cross his sand dunes and venture into an unknown territory.

But, remember you have paid precious 500 rupees and too many questions would ruin the fun of watching the magnum opus.

 The director stretches creative liberty to the extent where your intelligence as an audience is compromised. Therefore, you find yourself sitting through khali bali and staring at an emperor stomping his feet and making animated (laughable) gestures. Creative liberty, you see. History be damned.

Logic be damned too. The king enters a tent put up in the middle of a barren desert with nothing else in sight and then simply vanishes. His guards waiting outside is clueless about their 'Hukum' gone missing till, of course, they enter the tent to find no one there. I had to just laugh out loud. As to how come people just disappeared. They surely could not have evaporated into thin air, no? The kidnapping of the 'Hukum' scene beats all logic, if you ask me.

 Finally, the pious queen springs into action and thankfully has a war strategy in place to back her noble intention of rescuing her husband. She does manage to bring her husband back to the fort and it is 'achchhe din' again at the haveli but I cannot relax, you see. Because I know I am very close to witnessing something that would make me cringe as a woman.

Again, as an honest audience, I felt a little let down here. Why, you may ask. The director had issued a disclaimer right in th beginning, saying in so many words that he was not about to glorify the custom of Jauhar. And I had chosen to buy his disclaimer. But he failed me yet again. The long shots instilled towards the end, highlighting all the rituals associated with this dark custom seemed like a sharp contrast to the message echoed in the beginning of the movie. By the time the voiceover was sounded at the very end, I was compelled to lose faith in the director. There was discord I thought between the words and the intent.

 As an audience, maybe, I will forgive you. But as a woman, I find that a little difficult to do.

Despite all this, director sir, you still win. And I lose. You know why? Several women who watched your movie over the weekend told me they had a great cinematic experience and that your work is proof that Hindi cinema has evolved. And that is the reason I lose, sir.

I can write pages and still not be able to explain how much this insult that you have slapped on my face will continue to hurt for a long time to come. The fact that you have dressed this insult up so well in fine clothes and rich jewellery does not make it hurt offend, hurt any less.


(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed above are the personal views of the author and do not reflect the views of ZMCL)  

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