The Cacophony Of Bustles Surrounding Padmavati’s Release And A Story That Celebrates Rape Culture

Usually I do not write about anything political or extra “activist-ish” but this whole thing has been a pain in the butt for me.

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The different voices that supported/opposed Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s magnum opus “Padmavati” is quite bothersome. How can it not be? The folks invested over 200 crore for this project. And almost all news channels, news sites and blogs have been covering this news as the new state of emergency over millions of other relevant issues like women being raped, not getting the opportunity to study/work or being forced into a marriage they don’t want. It is less severe when compared to the “honour” of a dead queen who is also (as facts say) a fictional character. And the honour part is very important! A woman has given her life to save three children from a terrorist’s gun (thank you Sonam for the tribute!), a woman went to space against all odds, a woman voiced the necessity for universal suffragette, a woman has spied on the neighbouring country to help India win a war… But, they (I mean the wonderful filmmakers who *never* profited from stomping women down) would rather invest over 200 crores and a revenue generating actress who represented India on a global platform on a queen who had to kill herself to avoid rape. For the honour of it. As a woman, who lives in a patriarchal society, around men and women who perpetuates and denies the same… where women are raped and slut shamed for the same… where therapists are working day and night to bring the survivors out of the abyss of guilt in order to prevent them from committing suicide, dear filmmakers…

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Now, I have not seen the film, so won’t comment on it but we all know about Rani Padmavati and what the legend said. Above all, why Rajput men (and women agents) are all feisty and full of energy when it comes to defending this legend. Initially, rumours fuelled Karni Sena to attack the sets of Padmavati and director Sanjay Leela Bhansali earlier this year. Now the problem is with the depiction of Padmavati as a “naachnewali”.

Thanks to the constant coverage by the media and the authorities not arresting those who showed off their “head-chopping” power, the hues and cries related to Padmavati’s release have become an international news.

Who ruins the nation’s name apart the nationals themselves? The whole controversy is rather dumb, owing to the fact that Padmavati is actually a fictional character. Assuming that Padmavati is real, the frenzy behind a film that is yet to release shows a poor light on Rajasthan as a state and India as a country. The irony is that a woman’s “honour” is being protected with the attempts to put down another woman.

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What even more ironical is that these folks who accuse Deepika and makers of Padmavati of ruining the image of the state and caste “Rajput” don’t find the idea of the whole thing coming in an international newspaper’s front page, less severe. Or the fact that, today, women are having problems in Rajasthan. Child marriage, female feticide, honour killing, etc.

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Let’s be serious now…
Personally, the thing that bothers me is that people, refuse to see the angle that is bothersome and that actually affects women and womanhood altogether…
Why do they have to make a film that glorifies a woman who had to burn herself to death to protect her honour?
By calling queen Padmini ‘courageous’ for committing Jauhar is as bad as perpetuating the rape culture. Too bad that “feminist” Deepika Padukone thinks the same. Feminism and Bollywood, as an industry that profited from putting women down, will never go hand-in-hand.

When I saw women preparing for Jauhar in Bajirao Mastani, I was shaking in my seat because that is what war does to women. Thankfully, Mastani (with Bajirao) saves them all. What I didn’t know was how the director was going to make an entire movie romanticising the same. Rani Padmini (just like most of the women in the 13th century who committed Jauhar, Sati etc.) is a victim of war, oppression, and patriarchy. She committed Jauhar because she was forced into that position. Or else, her, as well as her fellow women’s option, was to get kidnapped and enslaved by Khilji and his army. The scenario shows that men raping women is not seen as severe as women failing to protect her honour, which is fed by the notion that a woman’s honour lies in her vagina A.K.A her “loyalty” towards her husband and family. And glorifying a woman’s brutal death for the honour of her husband and her caste is a “symbol” that is celebrated. In blunt words, it is like saying “save your honour A.K.A avoid rape at all costs, even if it means killing yourself. Or else we will slut shame the shit out of you. Men are going to rape you anyway, ’cause boys will be boys“. Thus laying foundations for victim blaming and slut shaming. Had Padmavati not committed Jauhar, what is going to stop the same set of men and women from slut shaming her for being Khilji’s slave?

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Sanjay Leela Bhansali, (or Bollywood folks) have decided to make extra profit from a movie that celebrated rape culture, consequences of war and casteism.
While men who always take over the authority are celebrated as subjective figures, women are seen as nurturing beings, also denied of basic rights for a long time. An army loots a kingdom after defeating the same they take away properties, jewellery and women. Funny, how a woman is reduced to a thing like “jewellery” that is meant to be protected. Look at that scene from Game of Thrones where Khal Drogo’s army rapes all women saying “they can do whatever they want as they won them over“. This alone shows what rape culture is. Rape is about dominance or declaring victory in many ways, not about sexual lust. That is what needs to be called out.

Padmavati’s story should be shown in the context to call out the rape culture and consequences rather to celebrate her suicide. She deserved to live a life of dignity.

At a time like today, when elders give out lecture after lecture about how the world is dangerous just as much as they condemn feminists for calling out the same, when women are coming forward one by one to narrate their horror stories, a film like Padmavati (assuming that it is about “honour” and stuff) is a huge step back for feminism.

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That being said, the release of the film should not be stopped. It is their right to express art and it is our right to critique-cum-scrutinise the rape culture and casteist contexts within the story.

Featured image: vogue India

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