(The Quint’s Take: A woman’s ‘honour'’is not a public commodity, and the crime of rape doesn't lessen her. Practices like jauhar/sati are condemnable. The Quint supports actor Swara Bhasker’s view as expressed in her open letter to Sanjay Leela Bhansali – questioning the glorification of Jauhar in the film ‘Padmaavat’.
We at The Quint have received several letters from our readers responding to Swara’s letter and expressing their views about the film. We are sharing these letters here without endorsing or supporting them. These letters are entirely readers’ opinions.)
One thing that angers me more than banal feminism is uninformed feminism, and actor Swara Bhasker has championed both of them with flying colours. Her open letter claiming to be “reduced to a vagina” after watching Padmaavat is laughable considering the Rani Padmini I saw portrayed on the silver screen was a strong, clever and determined woman who embodied the fabled Rajput code of ‘Death before Dishonour’.
Rani Padmini strategised a rescue plan for her husband, she outsmarted the male-dominated Khilji court, she commanded the loyalty of her Rajput generals who laid down their lives for her, she avenged the kingdom of Mewar by getting a traitor killed without even lifting a sword, and she chose death over being a slave to a murderous tyrant. How is any of this being “reduced to a vagina”?
How is it a message from “the Dark Ages”? Her story belongs in the shelf with the legendary generals of antiquity, and her bravery and fortitude is something that every person, man and woman, should be inspired by. Clearly, Swara Bhasker saw the entire movie but opened her eyes for just the last half hour when Rani Padmini chose to commit ‘Jauhar’. That’s all she seems to have taken away from the entire movie.
The film in no way promotes 'Jauhar' as Swara Bhasker may claim.
Such unreasonable logic only emerges if one thinks Rani Padmini and women today live in the same world, with the same rules, regulations and conditions.
In Rani Padmini's day women were claimed as sex slaves by marauders and conquering armies, and the Rajput queen courageously fought back. Just like soldiers and revolutionaries sacrifice their lives in the name of an ideal, Rani Padmini made the choice to die to uphold the Rajput way, to die protecting her virtues. That is the message of the film, which is always subject to subversion when watched through spectacles tainted by politics and ignorance.
Swara Bhasker argues that the film undermines the achievements of women over the centuries like the right to vote and equal pay for equal work. What genius would watch Padmaavat and take the narrative of the film literally and not metaphorically? In what world can you compare the legend of Rani Padmini with the challenges or the achievements of women today? It is moronic to draw such an extreme conclusion from a fictional historical biopic.
The message that emanates from the film is that the sheer will and determination of a woman is a powerful force that can even defeat the mightiest despot. It shows a woman who fought oppression and chose her own fate to live with honour till her last breath.
The movie is inspirational when understood in a sensible context, and in no way is it something that sends a medieval lesson to the women of modern India.
Considering all that Padmaavat, its creators and actors have gone through, Swara Bhasker’s open letter seems to be just an attempt to bait a reaction, to be content with the outrage factor and the likes, retweets, shares and media coverage that it can garner. However, using the feminist narrative, that is meant to discuss and deal with the complex and dark realities that modern women face today, to mobilise an extremely narrow if not oblivious understanding of a work of art is highly irresponsible.
The Karni Sena refused to watch the movie and it spread chaos in multiple cities demanding a ban claiming to champion Rajput honour.
Even after watching the movie, if Swara Bhasker’s biggest takeaway is that the film is anti-women, then she and the Karni goons are in the same uninformed boat.
The Karni Sena has invited the disdain of all those who value the Constitution and Swara Bhasker’s attempt to manufacture feminist outrage should invite the condemnation of every rational feminist, for such moves do nothing but bog down the movement and its image in trivial crusades.
The Karni Sena may call Padmaavat anti-Rajput and Swara Bhasker may call it anti-feminist, but this tale of a strong woman who embodied the Rajput warrior code has got the nation’s support breaching the 100 crore club, celebrated by citizens here and abroad. As a proud Rajput and feminist, I fully support Padmaavat, but this movie has shown how misinformed politicking can tarnish art. Blind outrage should never dictate the fate or the narratives surrounding creative expression, and our combined sensibility and sensitivity must prevail to shield it from politics of all kinds, be it communal or even surprisingly, feminist.
(The writer is a senior news editor at CNN-News18. This is a personal blog and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same)