'Padmaavat' row: How the affair is a blow on India's ever-existing gender struggle | Bollywood Bubble

‘Padmaavat’ row: How the affair is a blow on India’s ever-existing gender struggle

‘Padmaavat’ row: How the affair is a blow on India’s ever-existing gender struggle

Padmaavat movie
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“Two things form the bedrock of any open society- freedom of expression and rule of law. If you don’t have those things, you don’t have a free country,” wrote celebrated author Salman Rushdie. ‘The Satanic Verses’, Rushdie’s most controversial book partly inspired by the life of Prophet Muhammad that stirred a debate on various levels, was banned in India in 1988. Sure enough, not just the enlightened readers but the bureaucrats also knew a misdeed was being indulged on. 27 years later, in 2015, former finance minister P Chidambaram in a literary festival said, “I have no hesitation in saying that the ban was wrong”.

For the last few months, acts of protecting a mythical (will I be assassinated for using this term?) Queen‘s ‘dignity’ have occupied most of our social media mind-space. Demolition of sets, physical assaults on a veteran filmmaker, threats of beheading the actors, and a bounty on chopping off their body organs that originated from an overpowering sense of community prejudice, were to come to an end with the CBFC giving a green signal to release of ‘Padmaavat’. The Supreme Court, today, has lifted ban issued by six state Governments. But, is that worth a celebration?

The debate on cinematic liberty is a worn out one. How much imagination can be blended into how much fact, is best left to the artiste who fancies to tell his story. Agreed, in a country like India that boasts of vivid languages and folktales, we better not demean a particular identity or ideology, in the drive of being honest or expressive. Having said that, educating yourself to be open to opinions is a more progressive option than mastering the art of getting offended. And irrespective of which community you belong to, this applies to. In our sociopolitical structure, sadly, this is almost obsolete.

Precisely why, the mass response to ‘Padmaavat’ controversy is far more disappointing that a fringed group creating ruckus. Another acquiescence, that the inoperative state of openness and rationality lies far deep within.

A few days back, I woke to news of a group of Rajput women threatening to commit ‘Jauhar’ if the film releases. Whether it was a voluntary response to the situation or they were only being obligated by an organisation that claims to uphold their dignity, will remain a debate forever. In both cases, it raises the same question. Where are we heading to?

Going by statistics provided by the National Crime Records Bereau, a total number of 3,644 rape cases were filed in Rajasthan, in the year 2015, once reported Times of India. With this, Rajasthan acquired the third position in list of states with highest number of rape cases being reported. In the same state, a mythical queen’s dignity became so climacteric that the flag-bearers of dignity didn’t hesitate to issue threats on another woman. Sure enough, we are losing our minds. Hence, when women of the same state threaten to commit Jauhar (an act of sacrificing own lives rather than losing dignity to the opponent), whether willingly or reluctantly, because of a mere film, the menace is evident. Either the community bigotry is so deep-rooted that it takes over their own realisation of gender struggle; something they themselves have been fighting for decades now, knowingly or unknowingly! OR! The bigots are overpowering the sanes. Well, looks like they are! Either way, this is a huge, ironic blow; given that the queen in question is admired for putting her OWN honour against the evil.

Not long ago, I came across a social media post wherein the author accused Bhansali of portraying Peshwa Bajirao like a ‘Romeo’. “He instead of portraying Bajirao as a great warrior presented him as a weak Romeo,” he wrote. Hence, we should obviously NOT trust him with ‘Padmavati’, oops, ‘Padmaavat’.

‘Bajirao Mastani’ thoroughly glorified a warrior who not only showed great bravery at the war front, but fearlessly protected his own love interest till the moment he could. But more than that, to me, it was a more feminist film than many. It featured one Kashi Bai, a woman with a profound sense of dignity who never begged to be treated with more substance than Mastani, and Mastani herself, self-sufficient, beautiful and complementing her husband’s valour. If falling in love takes away Bajirao’s bravery for him, then I don’t know where are we heading with similar sort of wisdom.

Coming back to ‘Padmaavat’. The very fact that the self-proclaimed Rajput organisations blatantly refuse to even watch the film before they form an opinion, proves its baselessness and unencessity. In a few thousand years of civilisation, a few million communal conflicts gaze at us like enduring scars. We don’t need more of them.

To put it more simply, freedom of expression can’t be achieved by implementing a set of laws, until and unless we as citizens have assmmilated its cruciality.

Or should I say, The Satanic Verses of prejudice?

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To Sridevi with love: You took away the beauty of 'beautiful' today

Dear Sridevi,

My introduction to you has to be credited to the black and white television set that was the most pride-worthy thing about our drawing room during my childhood. The local cable service provider frequently played songs from ‘Roop Ki Rani Choron Ka Raja’. And I will be honest; ours wasn’t love at first sight.

In 2001 or 2002, I happened to watch ‘Mr. India’. A ten-year-old girl then, I wasn’t bothered about it being one of the first science fiction Hindi films, to be honest. But I could go on and looking at you, as you threw some of your magical and smile and giggled, ‘Kehte Hai Mujhko, Hawa Hawai’. I later knew, they named it iconic. And why forget ‘Kaate Nahi Kat Te’? You, for the first time, painted before my naive eyes how craving for one’s beloved looked like. That was when I truly fell in love with you.

It has taken me some time to discover your best works. From your effortless double role in ‘Chaalbaaz’ to Chandni, which thanks to you, went many notched higher than being just another romantic film, from ‘Lamhe’ which is arguably Yash Chopra’s best film ever to ‘Judaai’, your last film before the voluntary hibernation from films that you took, I’ve more than plenty to tell you why I adore you so much. Alas, you’re gone too soon and I didn’t write this earlier.

In a country where majority of audience obsesses over Hindi films, many wouldn’t know how much volume you added to the Southern school of cinema. Who can forget your winning act a rescued patient of retrogade amnesia in ‘Moondram Pirai’ or ’16 Vayathinile’, which can be easily called an all-time cult in Tamil cinema? Ram Gopal Varma‘s immense fondness for you is known to all. ‘Kshanam Kshanam’ is probably one of Varma’s most high-rated films, and one of your best works in Telugu films as well. I could go on and on about this.

For 15 long years, you kept yourself away from the magic of big screen. We all wondered, how and why! Now I come to realise, you just switched roles. In a world where relationships are fragile and purpose is so often lost, you figured your priorities and devoted your time to what you held dearest; your family.

And when you returned with ‘English Vinglish’, I rejoiced your second innings. In fact, this was a new you. The you who embraced her age, her wisdom and was filled with a hunger for doing the new. Little did we know, the brief race would come to an end with ‘Mom’.

A million times, I’ve wanted to be as beautiful as you. As expressive, graceful, majestic, charming as you. But today, as a part of childhood dies down with you, I want to be as dutiful and as confident a woman that you’ve been. I want to be as fierce as you were with your choices and I want to be as much capable of loving as you were.

Dear Sridevi, against the eyes of ordinary girls, you painted a fairytale. With you leaving us behind, beauty won’t be beauty anymore. But you’ll be beautiful, and we will never love you less.

-With love,
Just one more woman who wished to be you.

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Dear Salman, Rape, Depression and what not. Please try and end your callous ignorance

Dear Salman,

I was nearly ten when I saw you in ‘Maine Pyar Kiya’. I saw you growing up in those three odd hours. From a pure-hearted yet frivolous brat, you grew up into a man who fought hard for his love and did so without disrespecting your parents. I was in love with you, and it only intensified when I saw you in ‘Hum Aapke Hain Koun’ soon after. The ideal Prem, the adorable one who could sacrifice the world to make his folks smile. In real life too, I guess you are the same, for the Bhai of Bollywood indeed loves his family to moon and back, that is a well-established fact.

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However, as charted out beautifully in the 1971 movie ‘Guddi’, real and reel are exceptionally contrasting from each other, aren’t they?

Slowly, whispers of your arrogance started floating around, and the blots that were created on your life and love, emerged. But you were young and high, we all go a little overboard then, and no one has to judge you for that, especially if you make an effort to grow out of it. And that you did, by being a person who helps one and all, and creating Being Human, which is making a difference in the lives of so many.

Coming e-soon !

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Yes, there was the Blackbuck case. But I never held that against you because in a country where the law takes years to reprimand a man who kills and rapes another human, you had just, in a high, hunted, which is also a sport, only that it became a murder because of your high profile. The thing that hit me hard was your involvement in the Hit & Run case and made me always wonder what was the reality of the night. But I think that after so many trials, versions and your acquittal, this is a moot point.

However, this is not what I want to write you the letter about.

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It is your incautious denial of using your popularity in a responsible way, that has forced me to pen this letter to you. I am not sure if it will reach you, but if it does, I hope it finds you in good faith.

Some time back, five years to be precise, a girl was brutally gang-raped, and brought the whole country to its knees as the youth came on roads, holding the capital still for nearly a fortnight. Few years later, in 2016, while promoting your movie ‘Sultan’, you made a highly careless remark of going on to say how you felt like a ‘raped woman’, so hard was the work you had to put in for your character. Do you really think you could feel that, to put it forward so callously? Did you really feel the pain, the humiliation and the psychological breakdown of a rape survivor while shooting a movie in which you are a star? Sorry, I didn’t understand that at all. No one did, and you were under the scanner, to which you again came up with the jest that anything you say becomes a news for us to report, giving us the much-needed attention that we need to keep our site/print active.

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A simple sorry would have done a better job, and an acknowledgment that you would try to not use your words out of context. But, I guess, fame does bring some arrogance, inadvertently, preventing the person from bowing down in the slightest.

But not even this, comes close to the fact that two years later, you have again used your words callously.

Moving forward to 2018, you again put your foot in the mouth by saying that you could not afford the ‘luxury’ of being depressed, after stating that you do not have the luxury of going on a vacation. To be accurate, here’s what you said, during an interview.

I see a lot of people going on vacations, but I cannot afford that luxury of taking a vacation. I see a lot of people getting depressed and emotional, but I can’t afford that luxury of being depressed or sad or emotional because no matter what I am going through, it works against me. (Source: Koimoi)

And trust me when I say that, even though you may have used the word as an adjective, I have so many problems with what you stated.

You called depression a luxury. Do you have any inkling of how many people suffer from clinical depression and how many take their lives due to it, because it is not even considered a disorder? Let me enlighten you. As per last year’s statistics of World Health Organisation, nearly one out of every twenty people in the world suffer from depression, and that even makes approximately 8,00,000 people commit suicide because it goes untreated.

That, Mr Khan, is the extent of the disruption that the D word brings into the lives of a person and his or her family. The fact that you threw it around so casually, even to the extent of equating it with a vacation, proves the fact how less you, as a celebrity and a person of mass reverence, care about the impact your words make.

Consciously or unconsciously, you took a jest at your co-stars who came out in the open to talk freely about depression, bringing it the much-needed limelight. These are the young stars half your age, but double your wisdom, and yet, you belittled their efforts even though you have double, triple the audience that awaits you in cinema halls. Yes, cinema does not have the responsibility of educating anyone, but, as a person, a human being, is it not your responsibility to do what is right, to say what is right, knowing that how many people it is reaching? If no one in the industry dares contradict you, does that give you the right to say or do anything, without the slightest care?

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Hola! 🙋🏻

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There is a humble human inside you, Salman, the one that loves his family, the one who does whatever he can to make some lives better. Yes there is a person inside you who holds grudges but then every human is like that and we cannot hold that against you. But words, my sir, are something that have the power to influence a whole generation, something that comes naturally to the biggest star and biggest pauper alike. Your audience, comprising of various age groups, are yours to command. They are the ones who dance to your tunes in cinema halls, and can die for their Bhai.

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‘With great fame comes great responsibility,’ quoted someone once, and it stands true. Despite repeated hiccups on the front, I still hope that some day you’ll redeem yourself enough to understand the importance of words, and how they affect the ears and mentality of those fans of yours who hang on to every word you say.


A well-wishing cinemaholic

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