Padmavat: An Engaging Tale

Dr Gopa Nayak is a writer and an academician. She has a DPhil from the University of Oxford and her first Master’s degree is in Sociology from Delhi School of Economics, University of Delhi. She writes in both Odia and English and her poems have been included in anthologies of a poetry of women. She can be contacted at gopanayak[at]gmail.com.

The main engagement over this long weekend for me and many was, of course, Padmavat apart from the Republic Day Parade. The movie for me was significant as the portrayal of an event in history when Indian women threw themselves to the burning pyre to save their honour against a foreign invader. It reminded me of the Jallianwala Bagh massacre where countless Indians were gunned down in one evening with no way to escape. The scenes of Padmavat brought back similar images where red saree clad proud Rajput women had nowhere to escape but to the burning pyre. The fire appeared as a lesser enemy compared to the foreign ruler. At least the fire devoured their mortal being with dignity. That movie has portrayed the mass massacre of Indian women by a single foreign invader in the most dignified manner and it should be acclaimed for that.

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This movie has brought Rajput women’s tale of gallantry to the consciousness of Indian psyche. And if we flip the coin the atrocities that have been meted out to the bold and beautiful princess and the women in the palace who lost their lives in a single incident has been most gracefully presented. With my academically wired perception, I found feminism highlighted throughout the movie although it may not be the main theme running through the movie. A princess as a warrior and a beloved, a wife who could defy the orders of her ruler husband and put her wit to work- were some examples of Indian feminism at its best. It is, of course, another thing that many people did not find it interesting as there was no novelty in the portrayal. However, does it mean that what has been there should not be cherished?

This movie if not anything else is an eye-opener to the young Indians who are not aware of the historical nuances of foreign invasion on the plight of Indian women. Invasion of this glorious country by foreigners with shrewd strategies and brutal power led women took up the cudgel of saving their own dignity. In the movie, this bold and intelligent streak in Padmavat’s character is highlighted when she tried both wit and valour to defeat the enemy. However, in the end, she had to burn herself to escape atrocities.

Another thing that struck a chord with me was the death of Padmavat’s husband the brave Rajput ruler who would not compromise his values at any cost. Had he not been foolish enough to go and fight the battle alone he would not have been killed. These historical truths make you wonder if it is worth hanging onto one’s old-fashioned values of adhering to principles of trust and faith.

Khilji’s character acted out by Ranbeer Singh could get him accolades for the role as he has managed to play out the most heinous acts of masculine atrocity on screen perfectly. However, if we look around Indian youths act out the same strategy as Khilji even today. Rape a woman and kill her just like Khilji did on the eve of his wedding. The girl with whom he had sex and the witness of the act were both murdered mercilessly without a second thought. Could the stronger gender, if they believe to be so, take a message from this movie that what Khilji did was wrong. Could the old values of respecting women come back to the Indian consciousness again after watching the movie?

The movie with all the controversies has but asserted one truth that Indian women like women all over the world have been victims and men with lust had been responsible for their suffering. A movie as glamorous as Padmavat has painted that picture effectively and perhaps could go a long way in changing the world for women in a subtle way.   

 

 

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