Why did Bhansali Reduce Rani Padmini to a Vagina, not allow Women to Live after Rape? And Alauddin his Fun!

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The feminist in actor’s guise, who watched period drama Padmaavat, walked out a zombie, the feminist in her raped and ravaged. How dare, Mr. Bhansali, Sir, reduce her to what you did? Transform her from feminist to feminine. Here’s a tongue-in-cheek take on the controversial film, Padmaavat, for Different Truths.

The person who walked in to watch Padmaavat, ‘first day, first show’, expecting to see Rani Padmavati burning bras instead of jumping into a Jauhar Khund, must be a feminist disappointed.

She forgot the movie was about 13th-century compulsions and practices pictured on 21st Century celluloid. There were Jauhar and Sati, then. There are moving pictures, now.

Rani Padmini would not have recognised a feminist from a female if one dropped in front of her from the sky above. These days, a feminist can be picked out from a billion. They are all too familiar fixtures on planet earth.

The times they have a changed.

The open letter to director Sanjay Leela Bhansali was a waste of energy and words – 2400 at final count. It should have been fed to the shredder, deleted from all hard drives, erased from memory.

The feminist in actor’s guise, who watched period drama Padmaavat, walked out a zombie, the feminist in her raped and ravaged. How dare, Mr. Bhansali, Sir, reduce her to what you did? Transform her from feminist to feminine.

Till then she had remained a fan. She “fought” for him and his film on Twitter timelines. “I sparred with trolls not raving manic Muslims; but still I fought for you. I said to TV cameras the things I thought you were not being able to say because your Rs 185 crore was on the line,” she wrote in the open letter.

Then, after watching the movie with family and cook, stunned to the core, she delivered her verdict in 2400 words, “concise and direct”, in bullet points, though she had much to say. The message was basic: ‘Female Lives Matter’. Despite rape and independent of men living or not. Women had the right to live. Period.

Bhansali punished Rani Padmini with death and “reduced her to a vagina, forgetting that there was more to life than the vagina.” Like he could have added a chapter to Malik Mohammad Jayasi’s Padmavati – a chapter on Rani Padmini choosing rape over death. Where was the Jauhar in not letting Alauddin Khalji have fun? After all, he was ‘Made-to-Rape’ a ‘Mail-order-Bride’.

By the middle of the letter, the outraged feminist was breaking her own ‘Don’t focus on the vagina’ rule. She was but totally concentrating there – pissed off that 16,000 or so including Rani Padmavati were sacrificed at the altar of male pride and patriarchy, compelled to walk the last mile to the Jauhar Khund, by Bhansali. In this 21st Century!

The letter writer was totally confused by The End. She saw 14th Century on celluloid and got it mixed with 21st Century natural. Nothing much had changed in the intervening centuries. Confused, zombie-like, she embellished Jauhar with Sati and couldn’t distinguish between the two.

“I felt like all the ‘minor’ achievements that women and women’s movements have made over the years– like the right to vote, the right to own property, the right to education, equal pay for equal work, maternity leave, the Vishakha judgement, the right to adopt children… all of it was pointless; because we were back to basics,” she wrote, the anguished cry of a born-again feminist.

“We were back to the basic question — of the right to life. Your film, it felt, had brought us back to that question from the Dark Ages – do women – widowed, raped, young, old, pregnant, pre-pubescent… do they have the right to live?”

Did Raja Ram Mohun Roy and all those others who fought to put an end to Sati (Jauhar was long gone) feel the same like actor Swara Bhaskar? Did they too think women were reduced to a vagina and burned on the male funeral pyre?

The answer would be an emphatic ‘No’. For Roy and his ilk, Sati was evil. They were driven by a larger purpose. That all lives matter. They never reduced women to a vagina. For them, women were more than that. Period.

The fact of the matter is women do not have to challenge themselves with rape to prove they are equal to men. The general feeling that men were from Mars and women from Venus and never the twain shall meet may still hold. But the twain do meet, on an increasingly level playing field. Rules of male-female engagement are being rewritten, by women and men, together. Unisex clothesline and salons were not there in the 14th-century subcontinent. They are there now.

To believe that men, in general, condone female genital mutilation (FGM) and honour killings (HK) is to miss the woods for the tree – as much a warped notion as FGM and HK are. Men do not all like women dying around them. But history cannot be erased from memory by pulling down statues of slave-owners of 18th and 19th century America. Nor can it be rid by not depicting Jauhar and Sati of the 14th Century on the silver screen.

If the ultimate challenge was to get raped by Alauddin Khalji and live to tell the tale, then it was not feminism. It was suicide, which Jauhar was – mass suicide. Bhansali’s next magnum opus should be of a feminist – preferably played by Swara Bhaskar – going back in time to the inglorious days of Jauhar, to be raped by Alauddin Khalji and then return to the future to tell the tale in 21st century India. That should restore feminism to its past glory before Padmaavat spoiled it.

Sushil Kutty
©IPA Service

Photos from the Internet

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