Padmavati or Padmaavat: The strength is in the depiction, not perception

Hemant Batra | Writer, Author, Speaker, Law & Policy Expert

Chittorgarh Fort – Photo By SS Joshi – CC BY-SA 3.0

Though, I am neither a film critic nor a reviewer of movies by profession or interest. I am definitely a moviegoer whenever there is eligible one to be watched. So, I did watch Padmaavat earlier titled as Padmavati. A film by an accomplished filmmaker Sanjay Leela Bhansali. Cast includes vastly talented Deepika Padukone playing the role of Rani Padmavati with Ranveer Singh as wickedly villainous Sultan Alauddin Khilji. Shahid Kapoor assuming a positive role of Maharawal Ratan Singh. To neutralize Khilji, his kind wife in the film Malika-i-Jahan’s role is played by Aditi Rao Hydari.

Apparently, the film is constructed on the classic poem Padmavat, which was written in 1540 by the Indian Sufi Poet Malik Muhammad Jayasi. The release of the film not only got delayed but at one time, it was felt that it may not be released at all as it purportedly hurt the sentiments of valiant Rajputs. Why it had hurt their prestige was not clear to me at least as there were a diverse set of updates coming in from all directions. In one news-report, I read that a set of Rajputs got agitated when actor Ranveer Singh told media that he did not mind playing the role of a villain in the film if he could perform two intimate scenes with the lead female character or in other words with Deepika aka Padmavati. The rumor mill got further feigned when somebody claimed that shooting of the film was happening with romantic scenes between Alauddin Khilji and Padmavati. That kind of love story, if at all happening, was obviously a flagrant spin of history, completely fabricated. Then, I read that the Ghoomar song was considered indecent and involved exposure of Padmavati’s skin. The Rajput queen will never ever do that in reality. Thus, eventually, the whole film became a portrayal of anti-hindu and anti-national ideology.

But the Central Board of Film Certification demonstrated that it was not an impotent but important expert body. It approved the film with few modifications that included stipulation on multiple disclaimers and a change in title from Padmavati to Padmaavat. The rumpus continued with people taking to streets and indulging in violence and damaging private and public properties. Then came the grand finale of Supreme Court of India. The Supermen of the Supreme Court not only refused to ban the movie but also directed the four shy feeble states to ensure the peaceful release of the film.

Hence, courtesy our highest court, I saw the film yesterday.

After seeing this film, I thought of writing down my Belvedere in view of all the ruckus and disorder or if I may say so hullabulla surrounding the film storyline and depiction.

The film in the current form is a great tribute to the valor, prestige, and ethics of Rajputs, be it women or men. Both have been shown with the highest order of character. Alauddin Khilji a Muslim has been shown as the most notorious and evil person not only because he was eyeing somebody’s beloved wife but also because he was immoral, characterless and unethical in his way of life. Thank God, Muslims didn’t take it to heart. Perhaps, because they understand that if one person is bad in a community that doesn’t mean or paint the whole community being rogue. Also, Alauddin’s spouse was shown in a very pious light. It is Malika-i-Jahan who arranges for the safe escape passage of Rani Padmavati and her husband Raja Ratan Singh at the cost of her own life and liberty.

My question now is that could you take away Allaudin’s choice or destiny of being attracted to a woman? No, you could not. But yes, you could fail him and reprove him or rebuke him. That was done. The film depicts and paints him as inhuman and monstrous. Rajput Raja Ratan Singh and Rani Padmavati were shown as the extraordinary human beings. Absolutely faultless, virtuous, ethical and brave. So why was this hullabulla? Why are we so misled and naïve people? And by the way one text of historical document describes Padmavati’s origin as the Singhal Kingdom in Sri Lanka. So logically, this film backlash has a foreign diplomacy issue attached to it, as well. One can go to any wild extent.

I agree that medium of films cannot be used to malign anyone by distorting or tampering the historical facts. But this particular movie Padmaavat was a feast to watch and made me a proud hindu and Indian first.

Now, I hear that one female film actor has said that this film glorifies self-immolation because the Rajput queen Padmavati is shown committing jauhar i.e. self-immolation along with hundreds of other women to protect herself from Khilji. How reckless could that statement be as it confirms that we Indians are so vulnerable that we can be manipulated merely by the doctrine of films?

Having said the above, I have a deep appreciation for the creativity and talent of our artists be it Sanjay Leela Bhansali, Deepika Padukone, Ranveer Singh, Shahid Kapoor, Aditi Rao Hydari and more.