I read Avina Kohli’s brilliant response to you here on rightlog.in itself and I was tempted to write one myself (from a male point of view). Swara Bhaskar ji, it is truly and totally dedicated to you, and should be considered a man’s response to your 2400-words ranticle (rant+article) in The Wire, where you touched base with History, Feminism, Being Woman, Honor, Life and Right to Live and myriad other subjects.
For the benefit of my readers, Swara Bhaskar ji, to whom this letter is addressed, is an actress who has starred in films like – Tanu Weds Manu Series, Prem Ratan Dhan Paayo, Raanjhana and the recently released (and critically acclaimed) Anarkali of Arrah.
Swara Bhaskar Ji, first things first. Here are the few things I observed about you (that is before reading your ranticle).
a) You leap headfirst into discussions without a jot of perspective and context.
b) You frequently retweet Rahul Gandhi, Shehla Rashid, Rana Ayyub, Shabana Azmi and the ilk. Not that your political leanings should matter to anyone, but it simply ascertains that you do have one.
c) You are an alumni of JNU, where advocacy of free speech, rights (of all types) and feminism are imbibed in the culture
d) You are a proud ‘arm-chair activist’, as you’ve yourself mentioned
Now moving to the ranticle. Allow me to say Swara Bhaskar ji, I reject every line of that letter, with all my conviction. You have got it all so wrong.
Swara Bhaskar Ji, you begin your letter with praises of Bhansali, then you jump ship to explaining how women have the right to live. It is here itself that I am convinced that you’ve got no perspective. Your lecture on the ‘right of women to live’ revolves predominantly over a 21st Century, modern and liberal outlook.
You have not experienced (because you can’t time travel) 13th Century Rajasthan. None of us have (because we can’t, either). The Jauhar scene has a historical backdrop and it is not out of one of Bhansali’s wildly creative dreams. He has merely embossed his creative freedom on to it (of which you seem to be a fan???). The fact remains, that the poem ‘Padmaavat’ ends with the Jauhar of the Rajput women. As such, this particular scene is the most important of them all! What would be the use of having spent 185 crore rupees and not showing what actually occurred in the end? Feminism aside, this is EXACTLY WHAT HAPPENED as per Padmaavat the book. This is exactly what Bhansali portrayed. Trust me, I would have loved it, Had the movie shown Rani Padmini mobilizing her women militia, laying siege on Khilji’s troops, beheading Khilji with one swift stroke of her blade and avenging the death of her husband Rawal Ratan Singh. But that would have been (a) magnificent [LIE].
Now for your long sermons. I see you like to give long sermons while sitting in your cozy comfort zone. It is very easy to point fingers at Bhansali and point out fallacies in his film direction. It is equally easy to sermonize us on how it is a sin to glorify Jauhar and Sati. But frankly, this is all immaterial. Trust me and I say this with all my conviction that NO sensible Indian women will go out and set herself on fire after watching the Jauhar scene in the movie. No there had been unfortunate cases of kids jumping from rooftops hoping Shaktiman will save them, but we are talking about Adult Married women here. However there are a few women in the world who do commit Jauhar till date. Not Jauhar technically but suicide. I am talking about Yazidi Women who have been taken as sex slaves by ISIS monsters. Look them up and try to understand why would a woman put an end to her life when she has, as you say -The Right to Live.
Swara Bhaskar ji your entire letter to Bhansali is a mixture of illogical arguments, misplaced comparisons and also has – a communal pinch. Yeah! I noticed that. You hoped that it will get lost in the cacophony of feminism but my commudar (communal+radar) is very sensitive. So why communal you may ask? You have stated about four times in your letter the words, ‘Muslim invader’, ‘Mere Muslim’, etc. You are almost on the verge of pronouncing Khilji a victim of Rajput and Hindu offensive! There is no need to mention and re-mention that Khilji was a Muslim. Everyone knows he was. But more than a Muslim, he was a tyrant, a twisted sexual monster, a pedophile and a sadist.
As for your reservations about the Jauhar scene, Swara Bhaskar ji, you fail to describe what actually pinched you. You say the scene was accompanied with hundreds of women dressed in red, exhilarating music, amazing direction and a sense of pride in the eyes of the women. Well, that is how the climax of every Bollywood movie has been. Simran could have jumped into any of the compartments without giving Raj a shocker of his lifetime but that wouldn’t have been fun. Jai could have gunned down Gabbar all by himself but Veeru avenging Jai was amazing, wasn’t it? The climax is always supposed to be the best part of the film, something which should leave the audience awestruck. And Bhansali has done exactly that! The audience was definitely awestruck, not at the concept of Jauhar, but in the manner and grandeur in which it was enacted. You have the entire concept of the climax wrong.
Also, you do realize that choosing death back then was purely the personal prerogative of women, right? Just as you said women have the right to live, so did they have the right to end. Being a JNUite, I am sure you appreciate when people make choices, don’t you? Rani Padmini chose to die an honorable death once, rather than live in ignominy by being the subject of Khilji’s perverse experiments. Khilji’s harem was no amusement park where women were treated with respect and dignity. It was the last place any human would want to be in. Look up Harems and condition of women there, while you are at it!
The modern twist that you gave to the letter was supremely enlightening. You progressed from the 13th Century straight to the Nirbhaya gang-rape. I couldn’t fathom the need behind your doing so. What point did you want to drive home? That Bhansali should have kept Nirbhaya incident, and all other incidents where dignity of women have been compromised in mind during his film direction?
You subtly portrayed India a country of rapists, a western narrative propagated by the like Leslie Udwin who went ahead and interviewed one of the rapists and equated his behavior with the majority of Indians. Is this what you think so too Swara Bhaskar ji?
Because we are anything but that. We are not a perfect country, but we are better than most of the so called sophisticated countries in the west who have neither the sense of kinship nor relationships. Swara Bhaskar ji, you also take the opportunity to make the mention of the ‘other community’ being a victim to the ‘majority’ in India. Ouch! That was very communal. Not to mention very ideologically loaded. And very much in sync with the Intolerance narrative that the liberal cartel of India has been trying to establish since 2014.
Then comes the mother of all comparisons. Swara Bhaskar ji you compare yourself to a vagina, as you witness the climax unfold before you. Do you consider Vagina, a sign of weakness? What do you mean when you compare a vagina with all that women have achieved post-independence? I’ll tell you the word, Regression. When you compare yourself to a vagina, you subscribe to the thought of feeling bad, helpless and hapless. It’s a sad thing if you think so.
Swara Bhaskar ji, you do not know how much harm you’ve caused, but I’ll end by saying this:
Clandestinely hinting that a woman should choose Khilji’s harem over an honourable death is a very corrupted notion. By saying this you mocked the lives of women in some nondescript part of Syria, inside an IS base, who are wolfed every night by a dozen men. You know you will never face what the women of Chittor did. And hence it is very easy to sit on a high pedestal and sermonize.
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