Swara Bhaskar in a recent Open Letter to Sanjay Leela Bhansali wrote that after watching his magnum opus, she felt reduced to a mere Vagina. In a long 2440 worded letter, she in the first 8 paras sang praises of Bhansali, how his films are great works of art and how Padmaavat the film “was a visual treat”. Later in her letter, she went on an ‘all bashing mode’ bringing in her own version of feminism and how it has been offended by the film, and this where I feel like many others, that she has gone all wrong.
Ms. Bhaskar to begin with, the context of the film and how it’s going to be set is the director’s prerogative and here it is very much 13th century patriarchal, regressive society that Bhansali talks about. Padmaavat the film is based on a poem with the same name about a Rajput queen written by the 16th century Sufi poet Malik Muhammad Jayasi.
You write in your letter that “Women have the right to live, despite being raped sir. Women have the right to live, despite the death of their husbands, male ‘protectors’, ‘owners’, ‘controllers of their sexuality’.. Whatever you understand the men to be.” Sure they do Ms. Bhaskar, the film is based on a 13th century practice, it’s not 2018, where we can hashtag “Me Too” and talk about our stories of exploitation or run a protest in Ramleela Maidan or go on a twitter campaign on #MyBodyMyChoice. Women back then, did not have the platform unlike you JNU students who stand up with placards at the drop of a hat.
The Rajput Queens of Chittor apprehensive of their impending fate (females of the lost kingdom were taken as sex slaves by the Muslim rulers) chose to NOT be sex slaves of Muslim invaders and end their lives with honour instead, and that Ms. Bhaskar is also “Feminism” – The power to have one’s own choice at the face of adversity. The right to chose Fire over Rape by Muslim invaders, the right live and die a certain way is also feminism, sorry to break that news to you.
There is so much to feminism, but thanks to JNU pass outs and celebrities like you, feminism has been reduced to films, ads & stories that portray women doing things that are done by males – drinking, smoking, and gambling.
Yes, in the 13th century our society was patriarchal and regressive, what’s the big deal? It’s still is. No matter how much you talk gaga about womens’ fight to liberation and stuff, doing things men do is NOT feminism. Yes, the ‘Jauhar scene’ were a pregnant women was shown moving towards the fire was disturbing for me too. However, your reaction to it is totally over-the-top and surprising! You wrote “I felt in that moment that it was wrong of me to choose life over death. It was wrong to have the desire to live. This Sir, is the power of cinema.”
Yes, films being the largest mode of mass communication do have the responsibility of passing on a social message but hey, let’s not burden our filmmakers with that all the time. Somebody like Bhansali has never made any film that gives away any social message. He believes in (as has been expressed by him in various interviews) simply making love stories. Films are equally about speaking the truth about a situation given a particular period of time.
Rajput queens till this day worship Rani Padmavati for the Jauhar she committed, she is revered for not letting her enemy have his won, for Defeating him in his purposes. Khilji won the war but couldn’t get that for which he fought the war and THAT was the biggest defeat of Khilji. The very fact for which she is lauded by thousands offended you. Did you expect Sanjay Leela Bhansali to have changed the plot to suit your version of feministic ideas? I mean which bubble are you living in? Ms. Bhaskar, he is a mere director, he will not spend hundreds of crores of money to portray a visual representation of feminism that suits your intellectual faculties.
Also, let’s stop behaving in this boorish manner towards a man who has really worked hard to get his film released. First with nonsensical protests and now with such meaningless feministic arguments by celebrities who have taken the responsibility of protecting cinema from all evils. Ms. Bhaskar, life has more to it than Vagina. What about thinking with your brains and not your vagina the next time?