Padmavati: What Needs To Be Said

Posted by pinka_m in Culture-Vulture, Society
December 16, 2017

In one word if I were to describe what I feel about all of it – the word would have to be angry. My reasons, however, may differ from the obvious as they often tend to.

India is a land of endless history and culture, and to pin down the stories of our kings into a definitive tale, is almost entirely impossible. We have grandma-versions, text-book-versions, fiction-book-versions and folklore-versions and God knows how much we lap them all up!

As a culture, we lean back on our history more to reaffirm our belief in our roots and to gloat on being a civilisation of rich legacy, courage and values. We are okay if the t’s are crossed differently and some I’s not dotted at all, it’s when you change the punctuation that we lose our semblance!

The trouble is, for us the devil is indeed in only some of the details. We are not as particular about the level of distortion until it flips characters into being less heroic or even a degree less perfect. It’s not accuracy and factuality that we crave, it’s the ability for the characters to be a source of inspiration for entire communities that we cannot tolerate distorted.

The Hindu culture (and I use the word Hindu consciously) does not narrow down to a single God, book or story to preach to us. In fact the lines between right and wrong blur and alter with time and the then prevailing societies. What would have been blasphemy for Lord Rama to even think of doing, Lord Krishna does with flare – and believe me both are more than God for us!

As a culture, we make any human that excels in his or her times into a figure worth worshipping as a devi/devta. Do we really believe they are God? I don’t think that we should belittle the Indian intelligence by saying we do. But do we begin to pray to those qualities in them that lead them to the larger than life status? And are we now not willing to believe that there can be a single thing wrong with them otherwise? The answer is a resounding yes.

For some people that is blasphemy, and I get that. But for a huge number of people in this world – those are just stories and anecdotes that they draw strength from.

Should we be regressive and pray to Rani Sati when we boycott the concept of sati? This is not a question that has a black and white answer. I think to answer these questions, one has to first delve into understanding what this country is about, where it has emerged from and where its people are both philosophically as well as culturally.

Rani Sati is worshipped for the courage she showed at the time that she existed in. She is worshipped today, so we may embody the courage to do what it takes if things come down to fighting for our dignity! To dismiss that in a tweet by saying, “Why would we pray to a woman who embraced death over living”, and “physical abuse is not the end of the world” are great modern arguments – but one has to understand the context in which she existed, the realistic options she had – and any thinking mind would admit – she is worth admiration! I believe and hope that the ones who are worshipping her do so in the right spirit.

Padmavati’s story has many versions. But what does not change, in all of them, is her fight for dignity. Her courage. Her high sense of self-respect and her unending sense of pride in her own.

Today we build temples of a Rajnikanth or a Sachin. Then, they built temples of those brave hearts. There will come a generation, who questions the temples we build today. And there will be those that believe in them still. And quite honestly that’s okay! Its part of a thinking society and one hopes we will always remain that.

Having said that what angers me is simply the massive number of opportunists that exist around us!

A “protector” Sena that fights for the depiction of their “idol” in the correct light, but refuses to see the film first and ascertain whether there is anything objectionable.

The director/production house that cannot be given a clean chit either. One has to question whether they even want a solution or are happy with things spinning a little out of control, some people getting a bad name and the movie getting a ridiculous amount of publicity. It all makes great economic sense!
If they truly wanted a solution, why would they delay certification papers and polarize opinions even more by privately showcasing the movie to media persons?

The media today, sensationalizes everything for the sake of TRPs. Whether it is the Sena breaking a film set, the film being privately showcased or leaders giving polarizing views, right, wrong, everything is instantly tweeted so that their channel/paper/station is trending! If there are actual people whose options maybe getting swayed, so what?

Elections around the corner force every party to take a stand. One cannot openly say that the people in the movie business are doing fine, because .. well, votes. And so we polarize. We force people to take a stand. We rally. We march. When all we need to do is a handful of people sit down and talk!

What is the biggest loser in all this – the art of cinema! The 100s of talented people that gave their sweat and blood into this. And not one person gives a damn about that!

We scream about backward thinking and intolerance! The fact that a silent majority is watching this tamasha waiting for the storm to settle even when deep inside they know it is slightly ridiculous is evidence of our commitment to tolerance.

Fan emotions and they will fire up. It’s not called intolerance its called animal instinct!

Freedom of expression will never be an excuse enough to ensure these flare-ups are avoided. If the movie is pure in intention, talk it over, if it has something that puts a woman who some worship in a bad light, talk it over. If the release requires a compromise and you are willing for it, go ahead. If you are not, don’t release it in India. Find a god damn solution and move on!

What is the purpose of every Page 3 person giving strong opinions one way or another? Can they dictate the outcome?

Maybe for some who are ‘educated and mature,’ these issues are trivial, and this movie should be forced into everyone’s face for the sake of freedom of expression. For me though, a freedom of expression that interferes with someone else’s freedom of belief is not an exercise of freedom, its opportunism!

I hope that in all this, what wins is the art of cinema, the culture of our people and the valour of Padmavati. Everything else is just a trivial detail that makes great conversations over coffee!