After the recurrent Padmavati (now Padmaavat) debacle, I was really intrigued to see what all the fuss was about. Why were entire communities dead against its release?
And now, having seen the film, I am no closer to answering that question. For the life of me, I can’t fathom what the issue is. In a nutshell, for the uninitiated, the film Padmaavat is a historical fiction that captures the might of the Rajput clan – women and men alike – in the face of a foreign invasion. Alauddin Khilji, the mad king of the Khilji Dynasty threatens to declare war on Chittor, Rajasthan. The story that propels the movie has been drawn from actual historical events but the film goes the extra mile with its dramatic flair and fictionalization. Now, I’m in no position to tell which parts of the movie are based on true happenings (and neither are a lot of people who have a problem with the legitimacy of this movie). But that’s the point! It’s a movie, people. Made for entertainment. If you’re looking to watch an account that is completely true, perhaps you should watch a documentary?
That being said, the story reached out of the big screen and spoke to me. It cradled my cynical self in an embrace of deep pride for a civilization that has fought to keep its ground. It affirmed my respect for kings, queens and warriors who have had to undergo a multitude of sacrifices to keep us going. And in my honest opinion, it did not glorify practices like Sati/ Jauhar. The last scene where countless women stride towards a fiery end was more about their dignity as Rajput women, refusing to be captured and enslaved by the Khiljis. It was about an astonishing strength that allowed them to welcome death; thereby taking control of their destiny. As I sat in that theater, rooted to the spot, I didn’t for once think “wow, we should bring back such ancient practices.” I felt emotional that these women had no other choice during that time. I felt angry at those invaders and on the whole, my nationalist sentiments were pretty high up.
Ranveer Singh lives and breathes his art. I’m sure donning the skin of a crazed emperor from the 13th century was no easy feat. But somehow, Ranveer makes it look effortless and all too convincing. When I think of the movie now, his performance as Alauddin Khilji is one of the things that stands out the most; his maniacal laughter, the grungy get up and the arrogance of a ruler who felt entitled to the best of the best. I had no doubts in my mind about Ranveer Singh being an exceptional actor (my all time favourite!), but in this movie, he surpasses expectations.
On the other hand, Deepika Padukone brings a grace and fierceness to her character, Maharani Padmavati, like no other could. Sometimes it bothered me that women of those times were reduced to being subservient to the man of the house. But that’s a commentary on societal and gender norms, not Bhansali’s film. The fleeting moments of romance between Maharawal Ratan Singh (enacted by Shahid Kapoor) and Padmavati helped glaze over a movie that otherwise, would have been just about politics and war. Shahid Kapoor brings so much power to the role of Ratan Singh. His acting coupled with the ornate dialogues packs a punch that is much needed in a historical narrative.
The cinematography is to-die-for! All those scenic shots of the palace, the aerial view of the armies and the incredible clips of the music-dance sequences made me love Padmaavat even more. I’m definitely going to be watching it again and again and again.
To conclude, this movie glorifies the Rajputs, imbuing them with such strength of character. It dissects the disposition and mindset of Alauddin Khilji, making you detest him and simultaneously be appalled by his conduct. I had been anticipating watching this film for so long and now that I have, I’m extremely happy. So I don’t understand the abhorrence and I don’t understand the harsh criticism. I just wish that it had gotten better reception and that the hard work that went into its making is fully appreciated.
We have a rich cultural heritage and a country filled with beyond talented artists. Can we not be toxic amongst ourselves and work to reach a point where we can once again be a glorified nation?
Let our art speak volumes about our traditions and values. Not about hate.