Now that most of the states have released Padmaavat, reviews have started to pour in largely praising the breath-taking cinematic experience that Sanjay Leela Bhansali provides. But one review stood apart from the rest as it was from none other than actor Swara Bhasker who critiqued the film for The Wire saying she “felt reduced to a vagina” at the end of Padmaavat. Here's why Swara Bhasker slams Sanjay Leela Bhansali in her piece.
Bhasker who spoke vastly before the film released about the freedom of expression in cinema and in favour of Bhansali, wrote a column expressing her views on the film after watching it.
She blasted Padmaavat for its regressiveness and glorification of one of Indian history’s most shamefully misogynistic acts of Sati and Jauhar. Here are a few points she makes in the open letter to Mr. Bhansali:
- She notes down or rather felt the need to remind Bhansali of the many reasons why women need not die because their “rightful male protector” is dead.
- Bhasker understands that the events in the film are from 13th century. However, the portrayal of what should be condemned, but Padmaavat celebrates, is irking to Bhasker to the limit of writing an open letter to Padmaavat’s director.
- Then she moves to explain the title of her open letter and why is it that there is need to tell and re-tell that women are more than what lies down there. “So their whole life need not be focused on the vagina, and controlling it, protecting it, maintaining its purity,’ writes Bhasker.
- She explained why she felt like a vagina at the end of Padmaavat as she says, “I felt like all the ‘minor’ achievements that women and women’s movements have made over the years– like the right to vote, the right to own property, the right to education, equal pay for equal work, maternity leave, the Vishakha judgement, the right to adopt children…… all of it was pointless; because we were back to basics.”
- She compared the abolished practice like Sati to functional traditions like Female Genital Mutilation and honour killings and it all makes sense. She evokes the thought that what if one makes a celebratory film about it, would we not outrage then?
- Bhasker brings in the 13th century scenario and establishes how it is very similar to reality today (“verisimilitude”). We want to show Muslims as barbaric and Hindu women diminished to the identity of their men.
“Hundreds of women bedecked in red like Goddess Durga as bride rushed into the Jauhar fire while a raving Muslim psychopathic villain loomed over them and a pulsating musical track – that had the power of an anthem; seduced the audience into being awestruck and admiring of this act. Sir, if this is not glorification and support of Sati and Jauhar, I really do not know what is.”
- She almost calls Bhansali “a Sati- Jauhar apologist” as she explains that “the context of art, any art is the time and place when it was created and consumed.” The Nil Battey Sannata asks why the director failed to give any strong critique of the orthodox practice in the film?
- She then comes to the wrongful climax itself—which while watching the film even I prayed for a few women to revolt Jauhar knowing that it wouldn’t happen. “Hundreds of women bedecked in red like Goddess Durga as bride rushed into the Jauhar fire while a raving Muslim psychopathic villain loomed over them and a pulsating musical track – that had the power of an anthem; seduced the audience into being awestruck and admiring of this act. Sir, if this is not glorification and support of Sati and Jauhar, I really do not know what is.”
- Bhasker reminded Bhansali of the enormous power his cinema holds and god forbid if it encourages lumpen supporters “of any Karni Sena or some Marni Sena to demand decriminalisation of the practice of Sati!”
- Lastly, she drew many inferences from India’s past and the times of partition that led to massacre and great deals of crimes against women and how they are also context to Padmaavat.
As candid as the Anarkali of Arrah actor gets, she did not fail to praise Bhansali’s effort in directing the magnum opus and how wonderful every frame looked in Padmaavat before coming to what the crux of the film looked like to her. She also reveled in the memory of idolizing Bhansali at one point when he casted her in a small role in his Guzaarish.